ambulance at hospital

New, next-generation 911 services could be funded by proceeds from the upcoming spectrum auctions under a plan FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed in a speech yesterday at the National Press Club.

The FCC’s auction spectrum authority is scheduled to expire at the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30. As Congress considers legislation to extend it, the Chairwoman proposes that they take the first set of funds raised from the FCC’s next auctions and use them to support a nationwide upgrade of 911.

“Historically, our nation’s 911 systems have been updated through fees on bills and a mix of town, county, and state funding measures. But as with first responder communications, it’s time for a nationwide, digital upgrade. This is a generational change that needs broader support,” said Rosenworcel in the speech about the proposal to use auctions to fund 911. “Once again, we would be using the auction of public airwaves to support public safety. And the funds would flow to every state and jurisdiction with 911 call centers to help make next-generation 911 a reality nationwide. Think of it this way: This is next-generation spectrum for next-generation 911. I think this is a golden opportunity.”

In another measure to improve 911 services, last fall the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) that 911 call centers – technically called Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) – would require voice service providers to block robocalls that are listed on the PSAP Do-Not-Call registry. The FCC also asks for information on how to best protect PSAPs while avoiding security risks that would occur if call center numbers were made available to those claiming to be autodialer operators.

The regulator hopes to stop or at least deter the robocalls long before the launch of next-generation 911, which would be designed to better support voice, text, data and video communications. It would also mean the opportunity to offer real-time video of the emergency to provide first responders with instantaneous pictures. It will also mean the ability to transmit a patient’s medical records right to 911 dispatchers.

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