Title 39
Public Utilities and Carriers

Chapter 21.1
911 Emergency Telephone Number Act

R.I. Gen. Laws 39-21.1-1

 39-21.1-1.  Purpose.

(a) The purpose of this chapter is to establish the number 911 as the primary emergency telephone number for use in the state and to develop and improve emergency communications procedures and facilities with the objective of reducing the response time to emergency calls for law enforcement, fire, medical, rescue, and other emergency services.

(b) It is hereby declared by the general assembly that:

(1) Availability and type of 911 service in the state.  The citizens of this state enjoy enhanced 911 service where a public safety answering point (PSAP) telecommunicator receives the 911 call, the pertinent information about the nature and location of the emergency by questioning the caller, and confirms the telephone number and address of the calling party. E-911 saves lives and property by helping emergency services personnel do their jobs more quickly and efficiently.

(2) E-911 capabilities.  E-911 information includes Automatic Location Identification (ALI), which permits the prompt dispatch of emergency assistance to the street address of the wireline phone. This capability is especially important where the caller is disoriented, disabled, unable to speak, or does not know his or her location. ALI also reduces the errors in reporting the location of the emergency and in forwarding accurate information to emergency personnel. Automatic Number Identification (ANI) allows the number of the calling party to be displayed at the PSAP. With ANI, the PSAP can call back the party if the call is disconnected. The general assembly finds that ALI and ANI are critical components of effective emergency services.

(3) Wireless 911 capabilities.  Mobility, the primary advantage of wireless technologies, creates complexities for providing E-911 service, necessitating special action for wireless E-911 services.

(4) The need for wireless E-911 services.  It has been reported that the total number of wireless subscribers in the United States exceeds 42 million, and 9.6 million new subscribers were added in 1995 alone. Currently, there are almost thirty thousand (30,000) new wireless subscribers each day, amounting to a forty percent (40%) annual growth rate. Industry studies report that a majority of new subscribers cite safety and security as a primary reason for purchasing a mobile phone. These statistics underscore the growing popularity of mobile communications. With this growth, wireless customers place a large and increasing portion of 911 emergency calls received by PSAPs. In 1994 alone, almost eighteen million (18,000,000) wireless calls were made nationwide to 911 and other public service numbers. It is in the health and safety interests of the citizens of this state that wireless 911 services be enhanced to provide critical ALI and ANI information.

(5) The FCC mandate for wireless E-911.  In July, 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took several important steps to foster major improvements in the quality and reliability of wireless 911 services (FCC Docket No. 94-102). The FCC directed wireless carriers to deliver wireless E-911 information to PSAPs by April 1, 1998. The FCC also directed that wireless carriers, by October 1, 2001, identify to the PSAP the latitude and longitude of a mobile unit making an E-911 call within a radius of no more than one hundred twenty-five (125) meters in sixty-seven percent (67%) of all cases.

(6) PSAP'S ability to receive wireless E-911 information.  Currently, E-911 does not have the necessary systems, facilities, and trained personnel to receive ANI and ALI on wireless calls. It is in the health and safety interests of the citizens of this state that PSAPs have the capability to receive and process wireless E-911 calls, and to require standards of quality of service, performance of service, and technological compliance of all providers of telecommunication services.

(7) Conditions for providing wireless E-911.  The FCC mandate only applies if (a) PSAPs capable of receiving and utilizing the data elements associated with the E-911 services formally request such services from the wireless carriers in their jurisdiction and (b) a mechanism for the recovery of costs relating to the provision of such services is available. The FCC left it to each state to ensure that a mechanism is in place to permit carriers to recover costs associated with providing E-911 services. The general assembly finds that it is in the public interest to ensure that the conditions imposed by the FCC on wireless carriers to provide E-911 services are met as soon as possible so that the citizens of this state will have more reliable and efficient wireless emergency services.

(8) The need for a funding mechanism.  Wireline Enhanced 911 services in the state are funded by telephone subscribers. Wireless 911 services are not funded. Funding for wireless E-911 service will be necessary to ensure PSAPs have the necessary systems to be capable of receiving E-911 information from wireless carriers. Further, given the continued rise in the use of wireless communications, PSAPs will experience increasing demand and incur additional costs for ongoing operation and maintenance of the emergency 911 system. Wireless carriers will incur costs to upgrade systems to be capable of meeting the FCC mandate and will incur a continuous cost in providing E-911 information. The general assembly finds that the principal purpose of wireless E-911 funding is for wireless carriers to recover the costs of providing E-911 services and therefore to fulfill the FCC mandate.

(9) Establishment and purpose of an E-911 emergency services fund.  To ensure that adequate and sustained funding for E-911 statewide emergency services exists so that wireless and wireline E-911 systems can be implemented, maintained, and provided at optimum technical levels, and E-911 services performed at optimum skill levels, the legislature finds that it is necessary and proper to establish a "911 emergency services fund." The 911 emergency services fund shall be the cost recovery mechanism for all E-911 service providers and shall serve as the means through which PSAP upgrades, including upgrades required to receive E-911 information from wireless carriers, may be implemented and maintained.

(10) Indemnification.  Given the complexity of providing E-911 services, the general assembly finds that it is appropriate to provide immunity from civil liability for landline and wireless E-911 service providers. Further, the general assembly finds that to encourage innovation in the provision of emergency services, it is in the public interest to also extend immunity by statute to any person that provides equipment or services for the establishment, maintenance, or operation of E-911 services. Immunity would not extend to willful or wanton acts of misconduct by the E-911 service provider or its employees and agents.

History of Section.
P.L. 1986, ch. 152, 1; P.L. 1997, ch. 123, 1.