Christianne Laizner to the 11th Canadian Public Safety Interoperability Workshop

Speech

Ottawa, Ontario
December 4, 2017

Christianne Laizner, Vice-Chairperson, Telecommunications
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Check against delivery

Good afternoon. I want to start my remarks by acknowledging that we are meeting on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.

That’s something that has really hit home for me since moving to an office with a view of the Chaudière Falls on the Ottawa River. This area has been a special meeting place of Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. The tradition continues, with the National Capital Region now a favourite meeting place for many national organizations.

I welcome this opportunity to spend time with members of the Canadian Interoperability Technology Interest Group (CITIG) – valued CRTC partners who play a vital role in public safety.

I want to thank CITIG for hosting these annual workshops to strengthen communications interoperability. And for your valuable contributions to the Communications Interoperability Strategy for Canada.

I have come today to talk about the Commission’s role in regulating the communications system that emergency responders like you require to do your jobs effectively and on which Canadians depend during emergencies. 

I will outline our recent policy decisions on next-generation 9-1-1 as well as the expansion of emergency alerts to mobile devices. Measures that are designed to improve your ability to save lives and property, and to better inform Canadians of emerging threats.

I also will explain the Commission’s jurisdictional limitations in advancing these goals, which demand that we work closely with a broad array of stakeholders to make them a reality.

But, before I put on my Commission hat, I first want to say as a private citizen how grateful I am that emergency responders are willing to put their own lives on the line to keep the public safe. 

I know that you are among the first to put up your hands when calls for help come in – whether to respond to flooding in Calgary, Toronto and Gatineau, forest fires in Fort McMurray and northern B.C. or the rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic. I know, too, that your passion for your vocation is not limited to Canada, but extends to providing help to people in need around the world. 

All Canadians can be thankful that this country’s emergency responders can be counted on to show up in the face of danger and natural disaster to protect and save others. 

Knowing the risks you take makes regulators like me determined to ensure you have the critical infrastructure you need to do your work

Next-generation 9-1-1

That, in essence, is what the Commission’s recent regulatory policy on next-generation – or NG9-1-1 – is all about.

We understand that, in today’s connected world, no telecommunications service is more life-impacting or essential in times of crisis than those potentially life-saving three digits. As more and more Canadians use mobile devices to stay connected, it is vital they have the ability to call for help from mobile platforms – including along major transportation routes.

We also know that nobody needs timely access to critical data more than emergency responders. So, the CRTC wants to make sure that Canada’s 9-1-1 system takes advantage of the latest technological advances to improve your situational awareness in order to increase public safety. 

Let me provide a high-level overview of our NG9-1-1 policy, which was released last June. 

In a nutshell, it will help to increase Canadians’ safety by giving them access to emergency services through technologically advanced networks.

It will introduce innovative, cost-effective solutions while ensuring that high-quality 9-1-1 networks continue to be reliable. Rest assured, current 9-1-1 services will continue to be fully supported during the transition.

Of importance to emergency responders, NG9-1-1 will deliver high-quality information, services and support to public safety answer points (PSAPs), to enable you to more effectively assist Canadians. 

Our decision outlines the roles and responsibilities of telecommunications service providers, who own and operate the networks that deliver 9-1-1 calls to PSAPs. The CRTC regulates these services, as well as the dedicated networks used to deliver those calls under the Telecommunications Act.

The NG9-1-1 policy stipulates that large telecommunications carriers and wireless service providers are responsible for the construction, operation and maintenance of the new networks.  We have made it clear that the networks need to be designed and built in a way that mitigates the risk of service failures and that protects the confidentiality of the information they carry.

The policy also lays out the transition steps and timing as we evolve from the current networks to NG9-1-1 networks – which will initially run in parallel. 

The CRTC requires telecommunications carriers to enable NG9-1-1 voice, which is the delivery of voice calls over IP networks, by June 2020, and text messaging to 9-1-1 for all Canadians by the end of 2020. The CRTC is also recommending that municipal and provincial governments, and the PSAPs under their responsibility, make the necessary changes to align with these dates and begin offering these services as soon as possible.

Telecommunications service providers must complete the full transition to next-generation networks, and decommission existing 9-1-1 networks, by mid-2023.  New services, such as the ability of Canadians to send photos and video, are expected to follow in subsequent years. 

Just how quickly that happens will depend on the ability of PSAPs to support them and the recommendations we receive from the CRTC’s Emergency Services Working Group.  It is one of the sub-groups of the CRTC’s Interconnection Steering Committee.

The Emergency Services Working Group is composed of telecommunication service providers, PSAPs and 9-1-1 industry specialists. They work together to address technical issues and the operational implementation of 9-1-1 services. The Working Group is currently defining the Canadian standards for NG9-1-1 capabilities. We encourage emergency responders to take part in these discussions to ensure your needs are considered and your voices heard. 

Regional NG9-1-1 networks will be interconnected to form a national network.  This will support the transfer of information, as well as increase the reliability and resiliency of the network. The Commission will need to consider interconnections between Canadian and U.S. networks at a later date. We will want input from CITIG on this topic, when the time comes.

More personal, and detailed, information is likely to be transmitted to PSAPs and emergency responders in an NG9-1-1 environment. So every effort must be made to ensure the networks are secure, to the maximum extent feasible. 

Telecommunications service providers need to make sure that all information or data is used solely for 9-1-1 related communications. They have to develop procedures regarding the retention and destruction of personal information involved in NG9-1-1 services.

The other major issue covered by the decision is how the costs of this large-scale transformation will be recovered. The CRTC has retained full direct oversight of the carriers’ tariffs. The rates are to be established based on NG9-1-1 network providers’ costs, plus an approved mark-up. 

I should point out that different jurisdictions are at differing states of readiness to implement NG9-1-1. This will impact the speed at which the new services are available to Canadians and emergency responders. Some provinces may need to enact legislation to address things like PSAP standards, funding, coordination and public education.

The latter point – public education – is especially important.  Public awareness campaigns will be key to reducing Canadians’ confusion once NG9-1-1 services are available. 

Canadians will need to be well informed of the introduction of NG9-1-1 services in a particular area and supported in their transition to the new system.  This will be particularly crucial when dealing with populations such as people with disabilities, who may benefit from targeted outreach efforts.

Call for collaboration

Because other stakeholders have jurisdiction over important aspects of NG9-1-1, our decision included recommendations for action beyond our purview. Actions that will require collaboration and coordination among various levels of government, emergency responders, industry and the emergency management community as a whole.

Specifically, the Commission believes that the roll-out of NG9-1-1 in Canada would be more effective, efficient and consistent across the country if there were national coordination of PSAPs and emergency responders – something beyond the CRTC’s mandate. 

This issue was raised by many parties during our public hearing, and was considered carefully by Commissioners.

Our recommendation is contained in the NG9-1-1 decision. The Commission is of the view that, given the national leadership responsibility that Public Safety Canada is tasked with, the department is an appropriate organization to take on a leadership role in the national coordination of PSAPs and emergency responders’ transition to NG9-1-1.   

The CRTC is keen to contribute its expertise to the proposed national coordination body and to collaborate with others committed to its success. 

As many of you know, the Government of Canada is engaging a variety of stakeholders and developing implementation models for a potential Public Safety Broadband Network.  Its objective is to provide a secure, high-speed wireless data communications network that can be used for emergency responders and public safety personnel.

The link between NG9-1-1 and the proposed Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) is a natural one, since NG9-1-1 networks will capture emergency data and the PSBN will enable emergency responders to access it efficiently.

Both networks share the same goal of improving communications during emergencies through a nationwide Internet Protocol-based architecture.

The CRTC has recommended ongoing dialogue among Public Safety Canada, the Commission and NG9-1-1 stakeholders regarding the progress and timing of the rollout of the Public Safety Broadband Network. This will be essential to ensure a mutual understanding of how and when both networks may be interconnected.

So, I strongly encourage you to make sure your perspectives are included in these discussions. 

The more we talk and work together, the better we can advance our shared goal of providing Canadians with the best access to emergency services.

Emergency alerting

The other topic I want to briefly mention before closing is wireless public alerting – yet another reflection of the need to keep pace with the increasing migration of Canadians to mobile devices.

Like NG9-1-1, the Commission’s objective is to provide Canadians with a telecommunication system that safeguards the public in times of emergency – whether amber alerts, natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

Since 2014, the CRTC has required all broadcasters to participate in the National Public Alerting System. 

They also have to register with the National Alert Aggregation and Dissemination System. This system authenticates alerts issued by public officials and disseminates these messages to broadcasters for distribution to the public. 

TV and radio stations interrupt their programs to broadcast emergency messages that alert their viewers and listeners to imminent dangers to life or property. Following consultations in 2016, we concluded that we need to expand emergency alerts to the mobile world.

The CRTC has directed wireless service providers to implement public alerting capability on their LTE networks by April 6, 2018. While that deadline is coming up soon, I want to clarify exactly what our policy requires.

Carriers are required to implement wireless public alerting capability by April 2018. 

Telecommunications service providers must also ensure that 50% of the devices they sell by that date can receive wireless alerts. By April 2019, all devices sold must be alert-capable. Our objective with this requirement is to expedite the penetration of wireless public alerting compatible devices.

Service providers also need to notify their subscribers with non-LTE-compatible handsets that they will be unable to receive emergency alert messages on their mobile devices.

Finally, carriers will have to file annual reports, for the first three years, confirming the network implementation of alert distribution capability and interoperability with the system that aggregates and disseminates alerts. 

Wireless service providers will be required to begin distributing emergency alert messages after we resolve several outstanding issues. These include the development of a schedule for tests, along with a public awareness and education campaign.

The Commission asked the CRTC Interconnection Steering Committee to look into these matters. The Committee recently provided its reports on wireless public alerting for review.  We need to examine them closely before releasing a final decision on the nationwide roll-out of wireless public alerting.

As with NG9-1-1, I would encourage you to continue to participate in the various CRTC Interconnection Steering Committee working groups. Make sure your views about wireless public alerting are heard, as it will have a direct bearing on your work once the system is fully operational.

Conclusion

I’m sure we all agree that it’s important we develop a seamless system. One that ensures we get the right information to the right person, at the right time and in the right place, to deliver the right service to Canadians in their time of need.

I can assure you that we at the CRTC are working closely with our federal partners, other jurisdictions and important partners like you to ensure we achieve this goal.

Given the extraordinary dedication of emergency responders to serve Canadians to their utmost ability, I have no doubt about your determination to realize this objective. 

I am equally confident that, working together, we can equip you with the communication system you need to do your jobs even better in the future. 

I look forward to working with you as we do.  Thank you.


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