In its September 30, 2020 NOI, the FCC is asking for comments regarding options for preventing fees assigned for 911 being used for other purposes in keeping with its mandate under the New and Emerging Technologies 911 Improvement Act of 2008
September 9, 2020
FCC FACT SHEET* 911 Fee Diversion; New and Emerging Technologies 911 Improvement Act of 2008 Notice of Inquiry - PS Docket Nos. 20-291 and 09-14
Background: People in urgent need of assistance place over 200 million emergency calls to 911 call centers each year in the United States. To ensure that the 911 system provides Americans with the lifesaving services they need in times of crisis, 911 centers must be adequately funded. Funding is also needed to support migrating 911 networks from legacy technology to advanced, Internet Protocol-enabled next generation technology (NG911) that will make the 911 system more resilient and support advanced capabilities such as text messaging and streaming video. Funding for these critical 911 purposes is provided in part by dedicated 911 fees established by each state and territory that appear as charges on customer bills for wireless, wireline, and other communications services.
Pursuant to the New and Emerging Technologies 911 Improvement Act of 2008, the Commission reports annually to Congress on the collection and expenditure of 911 fees by states and territories. These reports show that despite the critical importance of funding for 911 services, some states divert a portion of the funds collected for 911 to other purposes. According to the Commission’s annual reports, between 2012 and 2018, American states and jurisdictions diverted a total of over $1.275 billion in 911 fees to non-911 programs or to the state’s general fund.
The Notice of Inquiry would seek comment on the effects of this fee diversion and on the most effective ways to dissuade states and jurisdictions from diverting 911 fees.
What the Notice of Inquiry Would Do:
• Seek comment on the specific effect that 911 fee diversion has had on the provision of 911 services and the transition to NG911 in states that have diverted fees.
• Examine whether mechanisms, such as restrictions on federal grant funding for diverting states, could be incorporated into programs administered by the Commission and/or interagency efforts in this area.
• Seek comment on regulatory steps the Commission could take to discourage fee diversion, such as exercising the Commission’s truth-in-billing authority to address the description of 911 fees on consumer bills when diversion occurs or conditioning state eligibility for FCC licenses, programs, or other benefits on the absence of fee diversion.
• Ask questions about how the Commission could encourage states to pass legislation or adopt rules that would end 911 fee diversion.
• Seek comment on whether improvements to the Commission’s annual 911 fee data collection and reporting process could further discourage fee diversion, including whether the Commission should provide additional guidance on what constitutes fee diversion.