RD334 - Commonwealth of Virginia E-911 Services Board FY 2016 Annual Report – October 1, 2016

Executive Summary:
The Code of Virginia (§ 56-484.14) requires the 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.

• (i) The state of enhanced 9-1-1 services in the Commonwealth

Virginia’s current 9-1-1 system is struggling to meet the demands of citizens and there are a number of reasons why the Commonwealth finds itself in this situation. Telecommunications services are no longer the exclusive domain of a single local telephone service provider. Instead, in order to meet the needs of consumers for flexibility and mobility, these services are now available from a wide-range of service providers with national and global footprints. New technologies and applications are available at an ever increasing rate, resulting in an array of new communication methods. Furthermore, user demand, which is driving the development for new products and services, is impacting how people communicate, including how they communicate with 9-1-1.

The primary reason why Virginia’s current 9-1-1 system is struggling is because the analog technology at the core of the 9-1-1 network is going away. This fact alone will make it impossible for the Commonwealth to keep pace with communication advancements and continue to provide the same level of service to its citizens. Much like television or wireless telephone service migrating from analog to digital, so is the landline telephone infrastructure. The same infrastructure that serves the public switched telephone network (PSTN) serves the 9-1-1 network. As more and more elements of this network are decommissioned, the criticality of 9-1-1 migrating off of this network increases. The solution to overcoming this situation is to deploy a Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) system.

NG9-1-1 is a shared Internet protocol (IP) network that uses packet switched technology rather than circuit switched technology. Similar to the Internet, NG9-1-1 architecture will most likely be a collection of networks rather than a single network. In addition, it will need to be built to a set of standards to ensure seamless interoperability not only within Virginia, but also with surrounding states. The backbone of this system is an Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet). The ESInet provides the connectivity between Virginia 9-1-1 centers, commonly referred to as public safety answering points (PSAPs), and transports both the 9-1-1 call and related data.

NG9-1-1 offers numerous benefits to the Commonwealth by increasing PSAP capabilities. In the same way that IP technology has allowed greater flexibility and mobility for Virginia citizens, NG9-1-1 will also provide that same kind of flexibility and mobility to our PSAPs. As requirements grow and change in response to new technological advancements, NG9-1-1 will enable a scalable and adaptable solution. It will also allow the integration of voice and data, which greatly increases the ability of PSAPs to share technology and data. The end result will be PSAPs that have an increased ability to receive more information related to 9-1-1 calls. The greatest benefit of NG9-1-1 is that it will enable Virginia to keep pace with technology instead of lagging behind.

The deployment of wireless enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1) Phase I service, where the caller’s telephone number and the address of the cell site are provided to the PSAP, is complete. The deployment of wireless E9-1-1 Phase II, which provides the PSAP with the caller’s actual location by longitude and latitude, is also complete. All localities within the Commonwealth currently provide wireline E9-1-1 service.

• (ii) The impact of, or need for, legislation affecting enhanced wireless emergency telecommunications services in the Commonwealth

The Board is preparing draft legislative changes for the 2017 General Assembly session. These legislative changes were recommended by the Board’s Finance Committee and are based on recommendations included in the NG9-1-1 Feasibility Study. The following is a summary of the proposed draft legislation:

• Delay the recalculation of the PSAP wireless funding distribution percentages until July 1, 2018. This will enable the Board to finalize a long-term 9-1-1 funding analysis that includes transitional costs for NG9-1-1. The anticipated timeframe for completing this analysis is January 2017. This analysis is a critical prerequisite for developing additional draft legislation for the 2018 General Assembly session that focuses on funding for the deployment and sustainment of a NG9-1-1 system.

• (iii) The need for changes in the E-911 funding mechanism provided to the Board, as appropriate

At the end of FY2016, the Wireless E-911 Fund (the “Fund”) remains fiscally sound. Moving forward, however, an existing appropriation and transfer from the Fund to other agencies and programs will challenge the Board’s ability to meet 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 Virginia State Police (VSP) for wireless 9-1-1 call taking. All localities in the Commonwealth are currently accepting wireless calls and no longer rely on the VSP to transfer wireless 9-1-1 calls to them. Included in the current biennium budget is an $8 million transfer from the Fund to the Compensation Board’s budget to support sheriff’s dispatchers.

Continuing to provide funding to the VSP and the Compensation Board could jeopardize the Commonwealth’s ability to receive federal funding in the future. Federal law enacted in 2004 requires states that apply for federal 9-1-1 grant funding (or the PSAPs within the states) to certify that no 9-1-1 funding raised through state charges was diverted for any purpose other than the purposes for which such charges are designated or presented. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in its seventh annual report to Congress on state collection and distribution of 9-1-1 and enhanced 9-1-1 fees and charges, identified Virginia as a state that has diverted 9-1-1 funds.

VITA wrote to the FCC to argue that Virginia was not diverting but got no response or change to the report.

However, the impact of the $8 million transfer has already been felt by the PSAP community since there is less funding available to them for the replacement of outdated equipment and to expand services to the citizens of the Commonwealth. The $8 million transfer to the Compensation Board means that there is $8 million less funding available for future PSAP Grant Program grants for localities to purchase equipment that is NG9-1-1 ready and fund PSAP NG9-1-1 projects.

• (iv) Monitor developments in enhanced 9-1-1 service and multi-line telephone systems

This is a 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 information requested on these provisions is provided to interested parties.

The following sections of the report provide a more detailed analysis of the current state of E9-1-1 in the Commonwealth, as well as the Wireless E-911 Fund.