RI blocked from federal grants in 911 fee diversion fallout

Regulators with the Federal Communications Commission said Rhode Island is one of several states now blocked from applying for some federal public safety grants due to its diversion of 911 fees to its general fund.

“In Rhode Island, 60 percent of the funding is going to other purposes, into your general fund,” FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said.

O’Rielly is headed to Cranston for a 911 summit on Monday evening, organized by state Rep. Bob Lancia, a Republican who represents Cranston.

Lancia has introduced legislation to restrict 911 fees to public safety and to assess 911 needs statewide.

He confirmed that Rhode Island and other states where 911 fees on cell phone and landline bills are diverted to other uses were blocked from applying from the grant money by legislation late last year.

“Rhode Island could’ve gotten a piece of that money to upgrade 911 resources,” Lancia said in a YouTube video posted Friday.

“We have been collecting at least $15 million a year, yet only $5 million goes to 911,” Lancia said.

The FCC has notified Rhode Island in writing several times that fees collected for 911 services and technology should not be diverted to other purposes, including the state’s general fund.

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