APCO, NENA, NASNA speakers cite ‘discussions’ to address NG911 funding issues
Representatives of three organizations associated with 911 expressed some optimism that ongoing “discussions” between could lead to broader consensus on the language that should be included in any legislation to provide $15 billion in federal funds to accelerate the deployment of next-generation 911 (NG911) across the United States.
Personnel from the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and the National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA) made the statements in response to questions about NG911 funding during a webinar last week hosted by the Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA).
There is consensus within the public-safety community that an infusion of $15 billion from Congress is needed to ensure that IP-based NG911 platforms are deployed throughout the U.S., as opposed to NG911 being limited to locations with sufficient local or state funding. However, there have been concerns that disagreements among 911 stakeholders about implementation details—for instance, language regarding interoperability, standards, cybersecurity and governance—could undermine political will on Capitol Hill to pass NG911 legislation.
To date, NG911 funding has been included in the Democrat-led infrastructure bill introduced in the House known as the LIFT America Act, but NG911 language has been conspicuously absent from large spending proposals from President Joe Biden and Republicans.
Language supported by the Public Safety Next Generation 911 Coalition—a group of public-safety organizations that includes APCO that was established last year—is in the LIFT America Act, but officials for NENA, NASNA and iCERT have outlined aspects of the proposal that they find objectionable.
When asked about these differences, speakers in the FCBA webinar downplayed any disagreements and noted that are ongoing discussions to address the matters.
“We’re all working to benefit 911 professionals, trying to improve the status quo,” Mark Reddish, APCO’s senior counsel and manager of government relations, said. “I really think a lot more is in common than we could ever be separated on, in terms of progress toward next-generation 911.
“I’m feeling optimistic that Congress is ready to provide funding for next-generation 911 and that, for the next FCBA event on this topic, we’ll be giving a status update of how states are implementing [NG911] using the grant program.”
Dan Henry, NENA’s regulatory counsel and director of government affairs, agreed.
“We’re making progress in these discussions, getting thing worked out,” Henry said. “NENA feels positive about the situation.”
NASNA Executive Director Harriet Rennie-Brown echoed this sentiment.
“I feel the same way,” Rennie-Brown said. “We are working together as organizations to meet a common goal for the good of those that we serve.”
It was not clear what exactly what roles APCO, NENA and NASNA are playing in these latest discussions or what impact they were having on Capitol Hill lawmakers. All three speaker declined to provide any details about the NG911 talks, but Henry reiterated that “discussions are happening.”
Some within the 911 community have expressed concerns that NG911 funding would not be available for use until NENA’s i3 standard for NG911 receives ANSI approval, but.Henry offered an encouraging update on that front.
about NENA’s i3 standard for NG911, noting progress toward i3 becoming an ANSI-accredited standard.
“Work on Revision 3 of i3 has essentially been completed, and now the standard is on track for publication and ANSI accreditation by sometime this summer, which is very exciting for us,” Henry said. “That’s a huge milestone for us getting across not the finish line but a finish line.”
Henry also said that development work for Revision 4 of i3 already has been started.
At the moment, hopes for federal NG911 funding depend on the passage of the LIFT America Act, as that is the only legislation that includes such language. Although noted 911 advocate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has vowed to introduce standalone NG911 funding legislation, no such standalone bill has been introduced in the Senate or the House during this session of Congress.