NYT editorial: 911 system is technologically obsolete [telecom]

The New York Times had an editorial stating that the "911 system is dangerously out of date", written by the chairman of the FCC.

"Currently, the centers handle about 240 million calls a year, an increasing number of them from cellphones. But many local 911 call centers can't receive a text, photo or video from a person in need -- capabilities that are considered commonplace for any American with a smartphone. Worse, while our nation makes the transition to broadband networks, too many of our 911 call centers rely on decades-old telephone technology -- technology that is no longer being supported by commercial vendors and prone to failure. The market forces driving the broadband revolution will soon have the nation's 911 system resting on a foundation of sand."

"The nation's 911 call centers need to upgrade to "Next Generation 911," or NG911. NG911 links 911 call centers to the latest Internet Protocol-based networks, uses mapping databases and software to route calls and pinpoint the real-time location of 911 callers, and supports voice, text, data and video communication."

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In my opinion, this essay raises a lot of questions. First, where will the money come from to pay for an all-new system?

Second, is the system has _dangerously_ obsolete as described? People have been reporting emergencies by voice over the telephone for 100 years. Some 911 systems now accept text messages, and it shouldn't require a major overhaul to do so.

Third, IMHO, one problem with 911 systems has been excessive centralization. For example, dispatchers used to be fairly close to the communities they served and thus were familiar with them. But 911 technology encouraged central dispatching, such as for an entire county or even group of counties, and the dispatchers are no longer familiar with local geography.

Some police dispatching systems do include maps or other information to responders. However, as a police chief told me, there is often a lag between when streets and buildings are modified and the changes show up in a database. Giving an officer bad information is worse than no information.

Does anyone here have any thoughts on this essay? Is the existing 911 system as dangerous as the writer suggests?

[public replies, please]
Reply to
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The capabilities may be commonplace, but the question of whether they should be used needs closer examination. Consider:

  • Those responsible for the E911 system are reluctant to encourage texting by motorists.
  • Photos and videos endanger those who take them, and they take too long to transmit, can give the wrong imrpession of the severity of the incident in question, and are generally useless to dispatches whose job is to help *first* responders with *professional* training and equipment get to the site of an incident quickly.

Lions and tigers and bears, spend money! The E911 system was not built on sand, but rather on the basis of reliable, proven, simple technologies which had already stood the test of time when they were chosen.

Hogwash. Firefighters, ambulance crews, and police have been dealing with these issues for centuries, and the *last* thing they need is to be forced to adopt more fragile and more expensive methods or equipment. "The latest Internet Protocol-based networks" are *NOT* more reliable than a dispatch console connected by a pair of wires to a central office and the telephone network.

*From* *taxpayers*, of course. Was that ever in doubt?

The system is dangerous only to the profitability of a few well-connected and expertly represented equipment vendors. Replacing it requires a willingness to place at risk the lives of those whom are attempting to report a car crash or other incident while driving, or standing near hazardous locations in the way of emergency crews approaching at high speed, and is only being proposed because the equipment vendors always want to sell another wiz-bang solution to the "problems" their previous offerings didn't, and can't, fix.

The "dispatch center" concept is the reason that so many homeowners have had to adapt to new street names and renumbered houses, and why cellular phones have GPS chips in them. Those problems were solved decades ago.

And, therefore, the taxpayers should fork over billions of dollars to 'update' something Google Maps has been doing reliably for over a decade? Someone is protesting too much, I think.

No. What the writer suggests is a giveaway to a few large companies, not improved emergency communications or dispatching. Those companies are eager to bleed the public by lobbying for the abandonment of reliable, simple, and low-cost technologies which no longer produce the exorbitant profits of years past.

Reply to
Bill Horne

The only time in decades that I had to call an ambulance, it was routed over five miles of icy, frozen ruts in a poorly maintained gravel road rather than over half a mile of icy but smooth and well maintained gravel road. I suppose that GPS chose the route based on minimum total mileage to destination or on even less meaningful criteria. (Fortunately, the emergency was not a life-threatening one.)

So that kind of info -- road conditions, best rather than shortest route to destination -- needs to be attended to in greater detail. That does NOT sound like a multi-megabuck infrastructure upgrade to me.


I'm inclined to be with Bill here. But then, I'm in a very rural, low population density area. Can't easily extrapolate to megapolitan urban density and demand.

Reply to
Mike Spencer

Per HAncock4:

It was a few years ago, but I assume it's the same system....

I was going into anaphylactic shock after coming back to a training course after lunch break.

Called 911.

"What's your name?".....

(plus more irrelevant-to-the immediate situation) bullshit from the 911 operator)

Finally, "What is your location"

"123 XYZ Road, Malvern PA"

"What township is that in?"

(to myself 'WTF ????? The post office gets stuff here, why can't you?...)

Then I started passing out and somebody else took the phone.

Dunno what they did or said, but somebody finally got there.

After it was all over, two docs took me aside to tell me that I came

*that* close to dying - the time taken to get IV fluid into my veins being the critical factor.

So a few more minutes of 911 incompetence could have cost me my life.

I've got three more.... but you get the idea: I would concur that 911 isn't all that wonderful.

Reply to
Pete Cresswell

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