On October 2, 2020, the FCC released a Notice of Inquiry seeking comments on options for preventing states and other jurisdictions from diverting 911 system fees, paid by consumers on their phone bills, to non-911 purposes.
Americans place more than 200 million calls to 911 call centers each year. To ensure that the 911 system provides the public with the life-saving services they need in times of crisis, 911 centers must be adequately funded, not only for present operations, but also for continued migration to the IP-enabled 911 systems of the future.
Commission annual reports to Congress on the collection and expenditure of 911 fees by states and territories show that despite the critical importance of funding for 911 services, some states divert a portion of the funds collected for 911 to other purposes. Between 2012 and 2018 alone, more than $1.275 billion in 911 fees was diverted to non-911 programs or to a state’s general fund.
In the NOI, the Commission seeks comment, among other things, on ways that it or other entities could discourage 911 fee diversion, such as restricting federal grant funding for diverting states. The Commission also seeks comment on regulatory steps that it could take to deter fee diversion, such as limiting the availability of FCC licenses and other benefits, or using the Commission’s truth-in-billing authority to increase consumer awareness of fee diversion. In addition, the Commission asks whether it could improve its annual 911 fee reporting process to further discourage fee diversion.
Comments on the NOI are due on November 2, 2020. Reply Comments are due on December 2, 2020. Complete text of the 911 Fee Diversion NOI and related materials can be found here.