Landmark 911 law due to expire
A law passed five years ago authorizing Congress to spend as much as $1.25 billion to help public-safety answering points (PSAPs) throughout the nation upgrade their facilities is set to expire tomorrow with less than $45 million being appropriated for 911 upgrades.
Those grants were awarded last week after being appropriated by Congress early in 2008, said Greg Rohde, executive director of the E-911 Institute, which supports the E-911 Caucus on Capitol Hill. Members of the caucus have drafted legislation to extend the authorization, which authorized Congress to appropriate as much as $250 million annually for five years for 911 system upgrades, but none of the proposals have been introduced.
“I still think it’s a priority for the public-safety community to have it extended,” Rohde said. “Certainly in the public-safety community, it was considered to be a major victory in 2004, and for it to drift away entirely and never be reinstated would be a major setback.”
When initially enacted, the law was focused on helping PSAPs upgrade to Phase II wireless technology. In 2008, new language was added to allow funds to be leveraged for implementation of IP-based, next-generation 911 technologies.
Many in the 911 community believe new legislation focused on next-generation services would be an improvement over simply extending the existing law.
“It’s my opinion that all the policy and grant issues should be focused on what’s going to bring about the next generation of service,” Rohde said.
Rohde noted that getting new legislation passed would be challenging, because Capitol Hill is focused on pending health-care legislation. In addition, a report from the national 911 office regarding the migration paths that PSAPs should take to next-generation 911 — a document that could impact future legislation — still has not been released, even though the report was expected to be completed in the spring.