FCC seeks comment on upgrading 911

 FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said students at Virginia Tech University tried to send texts to 911 during the 2007 shooting, but no system existed for accepting the messages.

“In an emergency, consumers should be able to reach out for help with whatever means of communication they are accustomed to using,” he said.

He explained that photos and videos from the scene of an emergency can help officials respond more effectively.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who sponsored a bill to provide funding to state and local governments to transition to next generation 911 technology, praised the FCC’s action.

“Today’s FCC vote is an important milestone in the evolution of Next Generation 9-1-1,” she said. “The Commission has taken an important step forward to provide the tools that call centers need in order to have 21st Century operations, improving quality and speed of emergency response.”

Bringing broadband to 911 call centers so they can receive video and photo emergency messages will cost as much as $2.68 billion over ten years, according to an FCC estimate released Thursday.

The FCC estimated that expanding broadband to all of the nation’s 911 call centers would initially cost $1.23 billion, and upkeep would add an additional $1.45 billion over ten years. 

The model assumes that call centers will not consolidate their operations. If call centers do consolidate as they transition to next generation 911 technology, the cost would drop to $1.44 billion over ten years, according to the FCC.

The estimates do not include any costs except expanding broadband connectivity. For instance, the FCC did not calculate the cost of upgrading equipment or training personnel.