WJAR Report Prompts FCC Commissioner Action

A report by TV station WJAR Providence. R. I., has prompted Republican FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly to ask for some answers from the state's governor over diversion of 911 funds.

O'Rielly toured the state's 911 facilities following an investigative report by WJAR that found major call center problems due to underfunding, including ait times, delayed emergency response and the inability to invest in new systems.

Rhode Island has admitted to diverting the 911 fees it collects, a practice he says needs to end.

In a letter to governor Gina Raimondo, O'Rielly wanted to know what steps the state was taking to change that diversion, including any formal legislative steps to insure that excess 911 fees now going to the general fund will instead be used to modernize the system.

He said he would be willing to work with the state to help end the diversion practice.

WJAR said it had tracked 911 stats in the state for over two years and found problems with a system where only $5 million of the $15 million in 911 fees collected from cell phone and landline customers were being spent on the call center, with the rest diverted to the general fund.

According to the station, following its report, state Rep. Bob Lancia, who had previously introduced a bill to return excess fees to taxpayers, is introducing a new bill to restrict the money to public safety, and a separate bill to address staffing shortages he saw when he visited the call center.


John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.