North Carolinas Transition of Legacy 911 Systems to Next-Gen 911
The state of North Carolina is in the last stages of implementing a Next Generation 911 (NG911) to ensure that residents are able to access 911 services regardless of their location or the communication technology they use. NG911 is the transition from legacy 911 systems to an internet protocol-based system for routing digital information (i.e., cellphone calls, text messages) to the appropriate 911 call center, also referred to as a public safety answering point (PSAP).
Updating the E-911 network has not come without a cost. The federal government has committed more than $6 billion for use in building a Next-Gen 911 network. However, this will fall far short of covering the costs across the fifty states. In North Carolina, the current E-911 system costs an estimated $70 million per year to operate. Until the transition to Next-Gen 911 is completed in 2021, the State will have to operate the current system while building the Next-Gen system. The total amount of the E-911 Fund is roughly $80 million per year. This $80 million comes from a fee attached to customer bills of service providers. Simply stated, even with some federal money, the current funding level is insufficient to cover the cost of both systems while the new system is being built.
The General Assembly has taken a step forward fixing that problem by directing 10% of the E-911 Fund per year into a Next-Gen 911 reserve fund. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but with funding tied to access lines, and access lines still in decline, the General Assembly needs to explore new mechanisms for E-911 funding. Since E-911 was established in 1989, it has been a constant issue of legislative concern and that is not likely to change.