RI Rep. hosts summit to discuss fixing 911 system

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CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — One Rhode Island representative is trying to raise awareness about the issues surrounding the state’s 911 system.

Rep. Robert Lancia hosted a summit for first responders and state officials to discuss problems plaguing the state’s 911 system.

“We want to get this system to be state of the art, what it needs to be, and it’s not here yet, not by a long shot,” Lancia said.

According to Lancia, the 911 system in Rhode Island isn’t funded appropriately. He says a large percentage of money collected for the 911 facility is actually going into the state’s general fund, when it could be invested back instead.

“The cost to run 911 comes out to about $5.4 million. So that left almost $10 million that was not going to the 911 system,” Lancia said during the summit.

Lancia said at least 60 percent of the money collected from the 911 fee in Rhode Island goes to the general state fund. It’s been that way for 15 years.

“Let’s make sure we’re taking care of Rhode Islanders, when they’re paying money, let’s give them the service they deserve,” Lancia said.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly flew in from Washington D.C. to attend the summit. He said the FCC is currently looking into different regulations, including not allowing providers to charge people a 911 fee unless all of the money goes to the 911 center.

“The dollars are being collected from consumers and being diverted. They’re being deceived on what the purpose is,” O’Rielly said.

In response to concerns about understaffed call centers, the office of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said the state is in the process of hiring additional employees and would like to add more in the future. Raimondo was not at the summit Monday night.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, Governor Raimondo’s Communications Director said she wasn’t invited to attend Lancia’s meeting until Monday afternoon and couldn’t make it on such short notice.

Though Raimondo couldn’t make it, two of her top aides were able to meet with O’Rielly earlier in the day.

“I had a very brief meeting with them, at the local call center, I thought it was a nice conversation and we will see where it goes from there,” O’Rielly said.

The Governor’s office is on track to launch “Next Generation 911” later this year. The program would allow people to text 911 in case of an emergency.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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