Here’s an idea for infrastructure week: Bring 911 into the 21st century

By Editorial Board, The Washington Post

THIS FRIDAY marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.

But even as an estimated 240 million 911 calls continue to be placed annually, the systems that service them have grown obsolete, unable to handle photos, video, downloads, precise geo-locating and even, in most places, simple text messages. That’s a threat not just to public safety but also to national security.

Worryingly, no one seems quite sure how to pay for a modernization to what’s known as Next Generation 911 (“NG911” in industry parlance), whose cost could exceed $20 billion. This week, as hundreds of public-safety and industry officials gather in the District for their annual 911 conference, many will have one main question on their minds: Why not prioritize an upgrade as part of the Trump administration’s national infrastructure project?

Good question. Given the dearth of funding in the president’s proposal, however, there’s little room for optimism in the short term. And in the White House’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, a 55-page document released Monday, there’s not a word about upgrading 911 service.

This opinion article appears in The Washington Post dated February 13, 2018

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