Latest 9-1-1 Fee Report Finds 10% of Funds Diverted from 9-1-1
Thursday, December 20, 2018 | Comments

The FCC published its 10th annual report to Congress on the collection and distribution of 9-1-1 fees by states, finding nearly 10 percent of the funds collected were diverted for uses other than 9-1-1 during 2017.

The FCC’s report identifies six states and one territory — Montana, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — as diverting 9-1-1 fees for other uses. During 2017, states and territories collected more than $2.9 billion in 9-1-1 fees with almost $285 million of that funding diverted away from 9-1-1.

Six states also diverted 9-1-1 fees during 2016 with New Jersey, West Virginia, Rhode Island and New York on the list both years. New Mexico and Illinois, which were on the list for 2016, are off the 2017 list, replaced by Montana and Nevada, along with the Virgin Islands.

“When Americans pay 9-1-1 fees on their phone bills, they rightfully expect that money to fund 9-1-1-related services,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Unfortunately, the FCC’s annual report shows that, once again, several states have siphoned 9-1-1 funding for unrelated purposes. This is outrageous and it undermines public safety. But there is also some good news: Thanks to Commissioner O’Rielly’s efforts to shine a light on the issue of 9-1-1 fee diversion, as well as the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau’s ongoing work, this is the first time that every jurisdiction has responded to the FCC’s annual 9-1-1 fee survey. Hopefully, drawing attention in this way to the unacceptable practice of 9-1-1 fee diversion will help end it.”

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has taken up the issue of 9-1-1 fee diversion, putting many states that divert fees on the hot seat through letters and public callouts during 2018.

“This harmful behavior short-changes call centers and prevents necessary upgrades, thereby threatening the public’s safety at their most vulnerable time, or it deceives consumers by stealing their money for other spending purposes,” said a statement from O’Rielly about the latest report. “Having had some success this year eliminating diversion by some states and territories, this year’s list highlights how much more work remains and how it is clear that some repeat offenders cannot be shamed (e.g., New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island). I will continue my efforts to end this horrible practice, and I am hopeful that Congress will reiterate its opposition to 9-1-1 fee diversion, including by exploring further legislative means to prevent it.”

According to the report, of all the 9-1-1 calls that came in during 2017, about 70 percent came from wireless phones. However, the FCC said the percentage of wireless calls is likely understated because a number of states reported total 9-1-1 calls but did not break out all service categories separately.

Thirty-five states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia reported engaging in next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) programs in 2017. The total amount of reported NG 9-1-1 expenditures from 9-1-1/E9-1-1 fees was $199 million, or about 6.77 percent of fees collected. Sixteen states reported having deployed statewide emergency services IP networks (ESInets), and 13 states reported having regional ESInets within the state and 11 states reported local-level ESInets.

The FCC is required by law to submit an annual report to Congress on the states’ collection and distribution of 9-1-1 fees. The FCC’s latest state 9-1-1 fee report, as well as reports from prior years, are available here.

The agency also issued a public notice seeking comment on the findings in the new report.

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