Unified comm is the next step in 911's evolution

To date, Next Generation 911 is a goal more than a standard, a collaborative effort by the Federal Communications Commission, the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Congress in 2004 authorized the NHTSA and the NTIA to administer a grant program for Public Service Answering Points to help upgrade equipment and to oversee research and development to define system architecture and transition plans to a digital, IP-based system.

“The Next Generation 911 Initiative has established the foundation for public emergency communications services in a wireless mobile society,” the Transportation Department says of the program.


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Although DOT calls the national 911 system an unqualified success, it is showing its age at 40 years and must evolve to accommodate mobile wireless and voice over IP technology. “The spread of highly mobile, dynamic communications requires capabilities that do not exist today,” including connection with a wide variety of technologies and the ability to accurately locate the call.

The initiative has developed a NG911 engineering architecture for connections to new technologies, developed emergency call center receiving software, and established testing programs implemented in a number of PSAPs in Washington State, Montana, New York, Minnesota, and Indiana.

Systems to provide an IP infrastructure for 911 services are being deployed in some areas, and the FCC has outlined a five-step plan to help the public safety community take advantage of a new generation of services that can incorporate text, video and data as well as traditional voice calls.

1. Develop location accuracy mechanisms for NG-911: The FCC has launched the development of a framework for providing automatic location information in the NG911 environment.

2. Enable consumers to send text, photos, and videos to PSAPs: The FCC has released a notice of proposed rules to accelerate NG911 adoption, addressing practical, technical questions about how to enable text, photo, and video transmission to 911, including how to deliver the bandwidth PSAPs will need.

3. Facilitate the completion and implementation of NG911 technical standards: For NG911 to be effective, technical standards for the hardware and software are needed. The FCC is working with stakeholders to resolve standards issues and facilitate implementation of a standards-based architecture.

4. Develop a NG911 governance framework: Because no single governing entity has jurisdiction over NG911, the FCC will work with state, federal, and other governing entities to develop a coordinated approach to NG911 governance.

5. Develop an NG911 funding model: To assist 911 authorities and Congress in considering funding options, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will prepare a cost model focused on the cost-effectiveness of the NG911 network infrastructure.

About the Author

William Jackson is freelance writer and the author of the CyberEye blog.

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