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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Is Guam diverting E911 funds?

The Federal Communications Commission has berated Guam, along with six other delinquent jurisdictions, for failure to submit the required annual E-911 report detailing the disposition of their collected fees.

FCC records show that Guam, which had a history of diverting E911 funds, submitted a report only twice—first in 2009 and again in 2012.

“Since your states and territories have either been a self-admitted diverter of 911 fees in the past or guilty of failing to respond to a previous inquiry, it can only be assumed that your state or territory diverted 911 fees for 2016,” FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said in a Feb. 20 letter. “Neither of these outcomes is appropriate or acceptable."

The letter was addressed to the governors of Guam, CNMI, Puerto Rico, Missouri, Montana, New York and Oklahoma, who did not submit their 2017 reports.

FCC’s 2017 report showed five states— West Virginia, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and Rhode Island — diverted almost $130 million intended for 911 funding. The commission, however, was unable to determine the fund dispositions for Guam, CNMI, Puerto Rico, Missouri, Montana, New York and Oklahoma due to their repeated failures to submit the data sought by FCC. Lacking information, FCC added these delinquent states and territories to the shame list.

The reporting of E911 fee collection and allocation is required by Congress “to examine whether states and territories are using 911 fees collected from consumers solely for their intended purposes,” O’Reilly said.

E911 funds are intended for enhancement of 911 systems. For Guam, the operation and maintenance of 911 Emergency System is funded by a monthly surcharge of no more than one dollar on residential and commercial telecommunications accounts established through public law. The E911 system operation and fund management are under the Guam Fire Department.

O’Reilly said the allocation of 911 fees “must not be corrupted by governments diverting funds for other purposes.”

Guam had one recorded instance of fund diversion based on FCC’s 2012 report, which identified the territory as one of the five jurisdictions that allowed the use of E-911 for “other purposes.” Of the $1.78 million collected in 2011, Guam expended $486,223 “for other public safety-related activities, including leasing ambulances and maintaining the territory’s public safety radio communications system.”

In his March 20 speech in Rhode Island, O’Reilly said raiding the E911 funds—even if used for “other public safety purposes”— is a “very disturbing” and “unacceptable” practice.

“Diversion is diversion, even if some believe it goes to meritorious functions,” he said. “Allowing other functions to be shoe-horned under the guise of 9-1-1 is deceptive to those paying the fees, American communications users. They should rightly expect that dedicated fees for 9-1-1 actually go to the intended purpose. It is not appropriate for states to creatively label certain spending as public safety related and use their 9-1-1 accounts as payfors.”

In his Feb. 20 letter to the governors of nonreporting states and territories, O’Reilly said their repeated failure to comply with the reporting requirement “suggests that addressing your 911 system or NG 911 capabilities is not high of a priority for your state or territory as it should be.”

“It is beyond disappointing as it is hard to imagine what could be more important to the lives and wellbeing of your residents other than a well-functioning 911 system” the letter states.

Although Guam did not submit a 2017 report to FCC, the Guam Public Utilities Commission submitted a March 2017 report to the Guam Legislature, showing a collection of $2.16 million in 2016.

An emailed request for comment from GFD was not returned as of this writing.


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