FCC extends EAAC Charter to June 2013

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FCC_Logo_100.jpgThis past Friday, the FCC extended the EAAC for an additional six months. Find out more on the E 911 talk podcast episode 123 recorded Saturday, January 12, 2013

Two years ago, the President signed into law the 21st Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). The goal of this act was to achieve equal access to 911 emergency services by individuals with disabilities as part of the migration to the national Internet protocol enabled emergency network or NG 911, and make that initiative a matter of national policy.

This act also created the Emergency Access Advisory Committee (EAAC) to deliver an in-depth analysis of technical and policy barriers that impaired or impeded access to emergency communications. The EAAC was given two years, and specifically tasked by Congress to conduct a survey regarding the most effective and efficient technologies and methods by which to enable access to 911 emergency services by individuals with disabilities. That survey was completed in July 2011.

In addition to that survey, the EAAC produced and issued a final report in January 2012. For the bulk of 2012 the committee then segmented themselves into several specific subcommittees that performed additional research work in particular areas; with the idea that specific reports from each subgroup would be completed by January 2013, which coincided with the end of the EAAC’s two year charter.

By the end of 2012, several subcommittees were close to completing their work, however others hadn’t started due to dependencies of other committees to complete their work first. Three of the subcommittees produced a work product that was submitted this past Friday. They were reports from Subcommittee #1, who was responsible for recommendations on text messaging to 911, Subcommittee #3 responsible for Media Communication Line Services (translation services and functionality), and Subcommittee #6 dealing with TTY transitional issues which was cochaired by my colleague Dr. Paul Michaelis from Avaya Labs.

There committee that I was responsible for with my cochair Al Sonnestrahl, was Subcommittee #2, chartered with interoperability testing. With the device recommendations of the group yet to be made, our subcommittee was a bit challenged with defining any work product prior to the submission of the other groups.

With much of the critical work being done, but other important work still needing to be delivered, the EAAC petitioned FCC Commissioner Genechowski to extend the charter of the EAAC for an additional three months. This request was supported and backed by similar requests from APCO and NENA. Coinciding with other specific initiatives such as deployments of NG 911 networks, and several texting to 911 initiatives around the country, Commissioner Genechowski granted the request for extension, and provided six months instead of the three that were originally asked for, to ensure success.

The extension was delivered to the committee by David Furth, the Deputy Bureau Chief for the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission, who thanked the commission for delivering their reports on Text to 911.

Personally, I have to say it’s been a great honor to work on this committee with some incredibly bright people, led by committee co-chair and ADA Compliance Officer at City of Los Angeles Department on Disability Richard Ray, who certainly opened my eyes to citizens with disabilities. Those of us that have full use of our senses really take for granted how communication is such a big part of our daily existence. And it isn’t until you stop to think that the legacy 911 infrastructure that exists today is completely useless to persons who are deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing as well as individuals with speech disabilities. Not only does NG911 bring new features, functionality and capabilities to those of us who are not disabled, it makes ubiquitous conversation between anybody, including those with disabilities, achievable, affordable, and therefore deployable.

If you’re looking to catch this summer’s thriller at the box office, be sure to check out the trailer for the new Halle Berry movie entitled “The Call”. In addition to being an interesting storyline, just from the few snippets in the preview trailer, they went through quite a bit of effort to make the 911 PSAP environment extremely realistic. Those of you that are “in the industry” will immediately recognize the layout of the software on the dispatch screens, and the communications gear in use. If anything, maybe this will give the general public little better idea on some of the problems today’s public safety agencies face.

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