COMMISSIONER AJIT PAIRe:
Improving 911 Reliability, PS Docket No. 13-75; Reliability and Continuity of Communications
Networks, Including Broadband Technologies, PS Docket No. 11-60.
When Americans dial 911, they understand that they won’t reach Halle Berry,1 but they do expect
to reach one of the real-life heroes who staff our nation’s public safety answering points (PSAPs). It
doesn’t matter if the call is placed because of a personal emergency or a widespread natural disaster.
Whether on a landline or cellphone, using voice over Internet Protocol service or a circuit-switched loop,
our citizens expect to reach an emergency operator each and every time. And that’s precisely what
today’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is about: keeping the promise to consumers that when they call
911, emergency personnel will answer.
That promise has long been a core mission of the FCC. Indeed, in the very first sentence of my
very first statement at an FCC meeting, I pointed out that the very first section of the Communications
Act of 1934 established the Commission in part “for the purpose of promoting safety of life and property
through the use of wire and radio communications.”2 Staying true to that statutory purpose in a time of
technological change is a challenge we have to meet.
Fortunately, everyone agrees that improving the resilience of communications networks—and
especially those networks that serve PSAPs—should be one of our major goals moving forward. That’s
one thing we’ve learned at the two field hearings we have held so far on the subject.
Even more fortunately, we’re not writing on a blank slate. The Public Safety and Homeland
Security Bureau compiled an extensive report on what went wrong after the derecho that swept across
several states last June. The FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council
has developed best practices. The Network Reliability Steering Committee of the Alliance for
Telecommunications Industry Solutions has provided technical and operational expert guidance when
needed. And the National Emergency Number Association, the National Association of State 9-1-1
Administrators, and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials have developed and
disseminated information about best practices to first responders across the country.
That’s why I am so glad that my colleagues accepted my suggestion to seek input from another
group of stakeholders that’s been working on matters of reliability and resiliency for years: the states,
state commissions, and PSAPs. These entities handle many of the regulatory nuts and bolts of our
emergency communications system. They establish 911 service tariffs, collect and distribute 911 funds,
and negotiate 911 service contracts. Day in and day out, our state and local counterparts have been doing
their part to keep their emergency calling centers operational to serve the American public, and I hope
they will share their expertise.
Common sense isn’t the only thing driving the need for consultation—so is the law. The New
and Emerging Technologies 911 Improvement Act of 2008 is a good example.3 This Act requires us to
“work cooperatively with public safety organizations,” among others, “to develop best practices that
promote consistency, where appropriate,” for 911 service. Among these best practices are “network
diversity requirements,” “call-handling in the event of call overflow or network outages,” and
1 Cf. The Call (Troika Pictures et al. 2013).
2 Utilizing Rapidly Deployable Aerial Communications Architecture in Response to an Emergency, PS Docket No.
11-15, Notice of Inquiry, 27 FCC Rcd 6402, 6421 (2012) (Statement of Commissioner Ajit Pai), available at
3 Pub. L. No. 110-283.
“certification and testing requirements” for service to PSAPs.4 I look forward to hearing from
stakeholders how statutory responsibilities like these should shape our work going forward.
In that same vein, I hope we will keep in mind an even more recent statute, the Next Generation
9-1-1 Advancement Act of 2012.5 Many of the best practices discussed in the Notice—such as call
overflow rerouting, link-failure rerouting, physical and logical network diversity, and continuous
monitoring—are built into NG911 networks. Indeed, the Bureau’s derecho report noted that had NG911
“architectures and capabilities been in place . . . they likely could have significantly lessened the
derecho’s impact on emergency communications.”6 Facilitating that deployment should be a national
priority. The Notice rightly acknowledges as much, in part by seeking comment on whether any rules we
adopt in this proceeding should contain a sunset provision. Such a provision would reflect the fact that
rules adopted today may not be appropriate tomorrow—especially not after the widespread deployment
and adoption of NG911.
I am also glad that today’s Notice proposes to evaluate our options through the lens of cost-
benefit analysis. Cost-benefit analysis does not mean automatic support for or opposition to any proposed
regulation. When properly applied, however, it does lead to smart regulation. Of course, the value of
cost-benefit analysis is entirely dependent on the data we use. So I hope stakeholders will help us
understand more thoroughly the actual costs of some of our proposals, especially where we do not have
concrete evidence for the estimates used in the Notice to calculate costs.
In sum, I am pleased to support today’s Notice. It is imperative that we take the necessary action,
in conjunction with the states, in order to make sure that every American can reach an emergency
operator when she or he dials 911. That promise has become part of our social contract, and it is a
promise we must keep.
4 47 U.S.C. § 615a-1(h)(2)–(4).
5 Pub. L. No. 112-96, Title VI, Subtitle E.
6 FCC PUB. SAFETY & HOMELAND SEC. BUREAU, IMPACT OF THE JUNE 2012 DERECHO ON COMMUNICATIONS
NETWORKS AND SERVICES: REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS at 44 (PSHSB rel. Jan. 10, 2013), available at
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