Reps. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) have asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the “slow and sporadic” implementation of next-generation 911 (NG911) throughout the nation and about the impact that the diversion of state and local 911 fees has had on emergency services.

Torres and Eshoo made the request in a June 16 letter to the GAO that was released yesterday.

“The federal government has taken an active interest in fostering an NG911 system,” the letter states. “The National High Traffic safety Administration’s Office of Emergency Medical Services is tasked with overseeing the National 911 Program and providing federal leadership to assist state and local governments in their transition to a NG911 system.

“However, progress has been slow and sporadic, and we’re concerned that NG911 implementation is not consistent across the country, leaving us with a patchwork system that is unable to always respond to emergencies as effectively as possible.”

In the letter, Torres and Eshoo ask the GAO to provide a status update on NG911 implementation, what role the federal government plays today in NG911 deployments, what role the federal government could play to encourage NG911 adoption, what challenges public-safety answering points (PSAPs) face in their migration efforts to NG911, and on the impact that state and local diversion of 911 funds are having on PSAPs.

Torres, a former 911 dispatcher, and Eshoo—co-founder of the Congressional NextGen 911 Caucus—issued prepared statements in conjunction with the release of the letter to the GAO.

“As we saw with this week’s release of the Orlando shooter’s 911 transcripts, in times of crisis, dispatchers are a key resource and often act as important witnesses,” Torres said. “Unfortunately, their ability to perform their duties effectively is being hampered by underfunded 911 emergency telecommunications systems that have failed to keep up with changing technology.

“In order to efficiently respond to emergencies, dispatchers must be able to obtain as much accurate information as quickly possible.  However, under our current patchwork system, calls are being delayed or misdirected and vital information may never reach emergency personnel.”

Eshoo echoed this sentiment.

“Upgrading our nation's 911 system is a critical investment for the safety of every American,” Eshoo said. “With over 70% of the 240 million 911 calls each year coming from wireless devices, it is clear we need to take immediate action to modernize how our PSAPs answer these calls.

“For years, Congress and members of the NextGen 911 Caucus have pushed for a nationwide transition to a NextGen 911 system to bridge this divide, but more progress is needed. I’m hopeful the GAO can shine a light on the challenges we face and provide policymakers at all levels of government with a path forward.”