A federal grant program could address this NG911 funding problem and also could be leveraged to help Congress address other broadband priorities, according to the letter.

“With a significant federal grant program, Congress can ensure that our nation’s leadership in broadband technology includes the world’s most advanced emergency-communications networks,” the letter states. “Federal support will drive significant innovation and economies of scale via a competitive marketplace and ensure that all 911 centers in rural and urban areas upgrade quickly and uniformly throughout the country.

“A federal grant program to modernize 911 would also complement other key goals and initiatives, such as broadband access to rural areas, smart communities, connected vehicles, and intelligent transportation systems.”

Last year, Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) co-sponsored S.2061, a bill that called for NG911 funding, and a companion bill was introduced in the House. However, neither piece of legislation has a Republican co-sponsor, and Republicans still control both the House and the Senate.

But perhaps the biggest problem facing NG911 federal-funding efforts is the fact that the scope of the requested grant program is not clearly defined in any legislation or yesterday’s. Although the National 911 Program office commissioned a cost study for NG911 implementation that was completed last year, that study has been under review for months by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and has yet to be released publicly.

Those familiar with the cost study have noted that it does not simply establish a single funding target, but it provides estimates about the amount of money needed for a variety of potential components that could be included in a funding package for NG911. Most public-safety officials have targeted the need for at least $10 billion in federal funding to pay for NG911 deployment.

One concern raised by many in the 911 community is that federal funding may be used to deploy the technology that would enable public-safety answering points (PSAPs) to accept multimedia requests and evidence from the public, but it would not include money for resources needed to process the influx of new information.

Without these processing elements of NG911—from selecting and editing video to implementing cybersecurity measures to protect PSAPs from hackers—being addressed, some fear that the 911 system could face operational challenges and potential financial shortfalls associated with NG911.