- Report Published -
|Commonwealth of Virginia Wireless E-911 Services Board FY2010 Annual Report|
|Wireless E-911 Board|
|§ 56-484.14 (6.)|
|The Code of Virginia (§ 56-484.14) requires the Wireless E-911 Services Board (the Board) to report annually to the Governor, the Senate Committee on Finance, the House Committee on Appropriations, and the Virginia State Crime Commission on the following:|
(i) the state of enhanced 9-1-1 services in the Commonwealth,
(ii) the impact of, or need for, legislation affecting enhanced 9-1-1 services in the Commonwealth,
(iii) the need for changes in the E-911 funding mechanism provided to the Board, as appropriate, and
(iv) monitor developments in enhanced 9-1-1 service and multi-line telephone systems and the impact of such technologies upon the implementation of Article 8 (§ 56-484.19 et seq.) of Chapter 15 of Title 56.
The state of enhanced 9-1-1 services in the Commonwealth:
Though the original goal was to have all localities providing wireline E-911 service by July 1, 2003, there is still one (1) locality left that is diligently working to deploy this level of service. Due to issues beyond its control, the locality was forced to secure the services of another addressing vendor to complete its wireline project. A new vendor has been selected and the locality will complete their wireline project by June 30, 2011. An extension has been sought and granted by the Board, as allowed by Code.
Wireless enhanced 9-1-1 (E-911) Phase I service, where the caller’s telephone number and the address of the cell site are provided to the public safety answering point (PSAP), is essentially complete, with only one deployment remaining. The one locality that has not completed this deployment is among the most rural in Virginia and is aggressively working toward deployment.
The deployment of wireless E-911 Phase II, which provides the PSAP with the caller’s actual location by longitude and latitude, is nearing completion, due to the hard work and dedication of the PSAPs and telecommunications service providers. Phase II service is available to more than 99% of wireless telephone service subscribers in the Commonwealth. The wireless service providers and all of the localities involved should be commended for their efforts to protect the public. While Phase II is not 100% accurate, the locations provided are typically within 50 to 300 meters, with some calls actually showing the caller’s location within a matter of a few feet. It is not the same level of accuracy as wireline E-911, but it does provide the 9-1-1 call taker with a valuable tool to quickly locate a caller in need of emergency assistance, especially if the caller is unfamiliar with their location.
With the deployment of Phase II many of the wireless service providers opted for a handset-based Phase II solution, which uses a global positioning system (GPS) chip in the telephone to locate the caller. Though this requires the subscriber to upgrade their telephone, most of the major carriers using this technology are now reporting that over 95% of their customers have GPS equipped telephones, which was the goal established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
As the Commonwealth approaches completion of the deployment of enhanced 9-1-1 services on all traditional telecommunications services, the focus of the E-911 industry shifts to the future of E-911 and service improvement. Several new technologies already exist that challenge the current E-911 infrastructure such as VoIP and text messaging. The localities, telecommunications service providers and E-911 vendors should be commended for all of the effort expended thus far to provide the citizens with the best E-911 system available, but it is critical that work continue to ensure this life saving service is available when it is needed most.
The next iteration of 9-1-1 technology will be IP-based and staff for the Wireless E-911 Services Board has already begun planning for this next phase, commonly referred to as Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1), through a baseline survey initiative. The goal of this initiative is to create a comprehensive inventory of all assets, resources, services and capabilities of primary wireless PSAPs in the Commonwealth from the following categories: jurisdictional and contact; financial; facilities management; equipment, technology and telecommunications; and staffing and operations. Data elements captured from these categories will be used in performance-based initiatives, to help the Board and staff gain insight for strategic and tactical planning and decision making, and to develop business cases for enhancing PSAP operations. Preliminary results of this survey can be found via the following link: http://www.vita.virginia.gov/isp/default.aspx?id=12498.
The impact of, or need for, legislation affecting enhanced wireless emergency telecommunications services in the Commonwealth:
The Wireless E-911 Services Board is recommending three legislative changes for the 2011 General Assembly Session to increase the efficiency of the funding process supported by the Wireless Fund and the use of its revenues. The changes made in 2006 to the funding process have had the desired effect, but not all PSAPs have experienced the same level of benefit. As a result, the Board established a Wireless Funding Committee to review the Wireless Fund distribution methodology, and if appropriate, recommend changes. The Committee has recommended two changes that require changes to Code. The first one is giving the Board the flexibility to extend the data collection period used to calculate the distribution percentages up to 36 months to minimize data anomalies from year to year. The second one is to move the payment recalculation effective date to coincide with the beginning of the fiscal year to improve the ability of local governments to forecast wireless revenue in the upcoming year. Minimum costs and wireless call load percentages will continue to remain part of the funding distribution methodology. The third legislative change is one that has been presented by the PSAP community. This change involves the funding source for the wireless 9-1-1 services billing agreements. Previously, these agreements were paid for with Fund Balance, but there is no longer a surplus that can be used for this purpose. As an alternative, the consensus of the PSAP community is to include payment of these agreements through the Appropriations Act, paying for wireless 9-1-1 services on behalf of the PSAPs, before any further wireless revenue allocation is made.
Additionally, the Board continues to work on planning for the future of E-911 and is in the process of completing a refresh to the Statewide Comprehensive Plan for 9-1-1 that was originally approved in January 2008 http://www.vita.virginia.gov/isp/default.aspx?id=8486. This plan identifies the key strategic initiatives for improving 9-1-1 services and functionality across Virginia. As the tasks and deliverables that were identified as supporting the Plan’s initiatives near completion, the Board needs to revalidate the Plan’s current vision and goals for relevancy and make recommendations for new initiatives. The Virginia chapters of the Association of Public Safety Communication Officers (APCO) and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) have stepped forward to partner with the Board on this new planning effort. The refresh of the 9-1-1 Comprehensive Plan should be completed by the end of this calendar year.
The need for changes in the E-911 funding mechanism provided to the Board, as appropriate:
At the end of FY 2010, the Wireless E-911 Fund remains fiscally sound, but moving forward, an existing appropriation and transfer from the Wireless Fund to other agencies and programs will challenge the Board’s ability to meet their financial obligations to both the wireless carriers and the PSAPs and maintain the viability of the Fund. The current biennial budget includes a $3.7 million appropriation to the State Police for wireless 9-1-1 call taking. However, all localities in the Commonwealth are currently accepting wireless calls and no longer rely on the State Police to transfer wireless 9-1-1 calls to them. Thus, the justification for the State Police to receive Wireless E-911 funding no longer exists.
Also included in the current biennium budget is an $8M transfer from the Wireless Fund to the Compensation Board budget to support sheriff’s dispatchers. A recent FCC report to Congress on State Collection and Distribution of 911 and Enhanced 911 Fees and Charges identified the $8M transfer from the Wireless Fund to the Compensation Board as a diversion from the purposes designated in the funding mechanism. This action will have a direct impact on the Commonwealth’s ability to receive federal E-911 grant funding in the future and may jeopardize $1M in current federal E-911 grant funding.
The impact of the $8M transfer has already been felt by the PSAP community in the amount of funding available to them for the replacement of outdated equipment and to expand services to the citizens of the Commonwealth. The $8M transfer to the Compensation Board means that there is $8M less funding available in FY 2011 for grants to fund critical PSAP projects. The PSAP community has begun to voice comments that the current surcharge amount may be insufficient moving forward. As a result, it is the intention of the Wireless Board to reach out to the Governor through the Secretaries of Technology and Public Safety to remove from the next biennium budget the $3.7M appropriation to the State Police and the $8M transfer to the Compensation Board. Failure to do so will result in the Board’s inability to plan for the future of 9-1-1 in Virginia and protect the citizens of the Commonwealth.
Monitor developments in enhanced 9-1-1 service and multi-line telephone systems:
This is a new duty of the Board that was enacted on July 1, 2007. Most of the provisions of Article 8 (§ 56-484.19 et seq.) of Chapter 15 of Title 56 took effect on July 1, 2009, and as a result, information requested on these provisions have been provided to interested parties during FY 2010.
The following sections of the report provide a more detailed analysis of the current state of E-911 in the Commonwealth, as well as the Wireless E-911 Fund.