Walden and Latta Called for Swift Bipartisan Action to Stop 9-1-1 Fee Diversion
December 30, 2020 WASHINGTON, DC –
On December 30, 2020, President Trump signed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act into law, which requires carriers to develop and implement call authentication technologies (Vol. XVI, Issue 3). It also directs the FCC to commence a proceeding to determine how its policies could be amended to reduce potential perpetrators' access to phone numbers and to initiate a rulemaking to help protect subscribers from receiving unwanted calls or texts from unauthenticated numbers.
Earlier, on December 19, 2020, House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH) called for bipartisan cooperation from Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats to stop the diversion of 9-1-1 fees for unrelated, non-emergency purposes. In a letter to Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Walden and Latta stress the need to act promptly to address this threat to public safety. "According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Eleventh Annual Report to Congress, five states diverted over $197,000,000 in 9-1-1 fees for unrelated purposes, raising questions about how this practice impacts public safety," Walden and Latta write in the letter. "Our first responders and public safety professionals deserve better, and we urge you to bring legislation before the Committee expeditiously to end all diversion of 9-1-1 fees." The New and Emerging Technologies 9-1-1 Improvement Act of 2008 (NET 911 Act) requires the FCC to submit annual reports to Congress detailing the collection and distribution of 9-1-1 fees by state. Each state imposes a surcharge on cell phone bills to fund the implementation of wireless Enhanced 9-1-1 (E911) and reports to the FCC how these funds are spent. Since 2009, 21 states and one territory have reported diverting 9-1-1 funds for other purposes. Moreover, ten states, six territories, and the District of Columbia failed to report expenditure information at least once, raising concerns that 9-1-1 fee diversion may be more prevalent than the FCC’s reports indicate. Currently, states are not required to report information about 9-1-1 expenses to the FCC, including how much money, if any, is diverted, and last year was the first year in which all 50 states and six reporting jurisdictions responded to the Commission’s questionnaire. This is concerning as some states diverted a significant portion of 9-1-1 fees for other purposes, yet the scope of the problem is not truly understood. Walden and Latta express their deep concerns with the diversion of these critical public safety resources, and call for swift bipartisan action to put a stop to this practice. "The amount of 9-1-1 funds that have been diverted for nearly a decade is troubling. Since 2009, over $1 billion of 9-1-1 funds have been diverted by states and territories for purposes other than for supporting 9-1-1 services," Walden and Latta continue. "It is unconscionable that some states continue diverting fees for non-9-1-1 purposes, and we urge you to work with us and our Republican colleagues to end diversion immediately." Click here to read the letter.