Statewide 911 could receive cellphone photos, videos

Jim Smith The Papillion senator presented to a legislative committee a bill to create a plan to implement the technology.

LINCOLN (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers could lay the groundwork this year for statewide 911 services with the ability to receive video and photos from smartphones.

Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion presented to a legislative committee Monday a bill that would create a plan to implement the Internet-based technology, known as Next Generation 911.

Supporters say Next Generation 911 would help emergency dispatchers gather more information from callers such as video footage of a crime in progress or a cellphone photo of a car crash.

The proposal would put the Nebraska Public Service Commission in charge of developing the plan and reporting back to the Legislature with its recommendations by December 2017. Lawmakers would review the report and use it to create a statewide system.

Smith said the bill was crafted after a series of legislative hearings and negotiations that included counties, the state's chief information officer, cell service carriers and the Public Service Commission, which regulates the industry. The state has moved forward gradually to avoid technology glitches that prevent callers from contacting emergency services.

Current telephone service surcharges would cover the costs of developing the plan.

Lobbyists for counties, 911 service employees and cell service carriers said Nebraska's services need to be updated.

"We have got to get Next Generation 911 moving forward for public safety. Our citizens deserve it," said Larry Dix, executive director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials.

New technology that lets cellphone users send texts to their local 911 call center already is spreading through Nebraska at a local level.

The service is already in place in Douglas, Buffalo and Washington Counties, and smaller counties have asked the state for money to add the service at their facilities. One of the latest to seek funding is Keith County, whose emergency center provides service to a large swath of rural central and western Nebraska.

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