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Upton Proposes Legislation to Establish E-911 Office at Homeland Security and Create Grant Program
Telecom Chair makes announcement during E-911 hearing

For Immediate Release June 4, 2003

Contact: Sean Bonyun
(202) 225-3761

Washington, DC- Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, today called for the establishment of an E-911 office within the Department of Homeland Security and establishment of a major block grant program to assist states and localities in building their E-911 systems. Upton made the announcement during his "Wireless E-911 Implementation - Progress and Remaining Hurdles" hearing and committed to working with Reps. Shimkus (R-IL) and Eshoo (D-CA), co-chairs of the House E-911 Caucus, in crafting bipartisan legislation and moving it through his subcommittee.

Upton's announcement follows recommendations outlined in the Hatfield Report, a report on the progress of E-911 deployment nationwide. Phase II of E-911 would enable emergency responders to determine the location of a 911 call placed on a cell phone.

"People assume emergency responders can determine their location by dialing 911. But that is not yet reality," said Upton. "E911 deployment is a common sense initiative that will save lives, but we need more coordination amongst all shareholders. The creation of an E-911 office at the Department of Homeland Security and the establishment of a major block grant program will go to great lengths to have E-911 in place and functioning throughout the country."

Upton proposed to (1) set up a "National E-911 Program Office" within the Department of Homeland Security; (2) authorize a major block grant program through this proposed, new DHS office to the states for PSAP (Public Safety Answering Points) readiness; (3) ensure that no grant funds can be given to any state unless it first certifies that ALL money the state collects through the E-911 surtax on consumers' bills goes to E-911 (not diverted to unrelated things); and (4) ensure that no grant fund would go to states unless they also have a state E-911 coordinator in place.

"The plight of four young men stranded on Long Island Sound on a cold January night cannot make any clearer the need for E-911," said Upton. "It is a matter of life and death. It is my only hope that the proposed legislation will prevent such tragedies in the future."

"Hello ... uh ... we're ... listen ... we're on the Long Island Sound in a boat off the coast of City I ... we're gonna die," a transcript reads of a teen caller on the night of January 24th. Charles Wertenbacker, 16, of City Island; Andrew Melnikov, 16, of Manhattan; Henry Badillo, 17, of The Bronx; and Max Guarino, 17, of Manhattan placed that harrowing call from a cell phone as their small boat was going under in icy Long Island Sound. All four quickly perished as emergency responders were unable to pinpoint their location.

The body of Henry Badillo Jr. - who made the gut-wrenching 911 call from a cell phone - was found May 20th, about a half-mile south of where they had set out in a dinghy that frigid January night.

Upton's full opening statement is provided.

Opening Statement
Fred Upton
Chairman House Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Hearing
"Wirless E-911 Implementation: Progress and Remaining Hurdles"

June 4, 2003

Good morning. Today's hearing is entitled: "Wireless E-911 Implementation: Progress and Remaining Hurdles".

We all remember where we were on September 11. I was with Senator Burns and Congressman Gene Green at an E-911 press conference on the Senate side. The press conference was abruptly interrupted as we scurried into another Senator's office to watch the horrific events of that day unfold before our eyes on the television screen. None of us will ever forget that day.

I would say that among the many lessons learned on September 11 was that wireless E-911 not only is crucial for normal public safety emergencies, but also, homeland security in the event, god forbid, of future terrorist attacks.

Events that day ushered in a welcomed new era of cooperation and a redoubling of efforts amongst all of the various stakeholders in the wireless E-911 universe. I must say that the outlook is much better than it was 2 years ago, when this Subcommittee held its last hearing on wirless E-911.

But make no mistake, we still have a ways to go, and there are major hurdles ahead of us which we must clear. Failure is not an option. No one should rest on their laurels, and we will continue to hold everyone's feet to the fire. We need maximum effort and cooperation, and all of this is what brings us together today.

There's a lot of talk lately about "roadmaps" in the context of achieving peace in the Middle East. In the context of wireless E-911, we now have a "roadmap" provided by one of today's distinguished panelists, Professor Dale Hatfield.

Among other things, the Hatfield Report observes the need for greater coordination at all levels of government, a lack of resources at the local level, and the fact that local exchange carriers are a critical piece of the puzzle.

Among the Hatfield Report's numerous recommendations, I am particularly interested in creating a "National E-911 Program Office" within the Department of Homeland Security. This will ensure crucial, unified federal leadership and coordination across this nation.

In addition, we should make a significant federal investment through grants to states to assist local public safety answering points (PSAPs) in completing their wireless E-911 systems. One of the starkest observations made in the Hatfield Report is that, no matter how well the wireless carriers succeed in upholding their end of the bargain, if PSAP funding problems persist, deployment will be thwarted. Hence, federal investments are crucial.

However, we must stop states from raiding E-911 funds generated though E-911 surcharges on consumers' bills. So I propose that only those state which certify that they do not raid funds would be eligible for these new, federal investments.

In addition, we need to further condition eligibility for such investments on a certification by states that they have an E-911 statewide coordinator. The evidence suggests that those states with such coordinators have made greater progress than those without. Such intra-state coordination should be a must.

Finally, let me say a word about wireless Local Number Portability. I support wireless LNP as a general proposition. However, I have concerns about its implementation at a time when we are asking wireless carriers to make E-911 their top priority. E-911 is a greater priority in my book, and we need to carefully weigh this balance.

In closing, I specifically want to commend our colleagues, John Shimkus and Anna Eshoo, for their efforts to launch the House E-911 Caucus. Their leadership in this area is tremendous, and I look forward to working with them.

It is my hope that we can craft bipartisan legislation to help make full wireless E-911 deployment a reality. As Subcommittee chairman, I am committed to moving such legislation. Time is of the essence.

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