NENA releases i3 standard update, seeks potentially critical ANSI approval
National Emergency Number Association (NENA) board members yesterday released the latest version of the i3 standard for next-generation 911 (NG911) infrastructure, which will be submitted to the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) for approval that could resolve one point of contention in NG911 funding proposals.
“This is a landmark moment in the evolution of NG911,” NENA President Gary Bell said in a prepared statement. “The public-safety community and the tech industry now have the most up-to-date, comprehensive, consensus-driven, open standard for NG911. This will no doubt hasten and strengthen our push to see NG911 systems, services, and products deployed coast to coast.”
Approval of Version 3 of the i3 standard by the NENA board means that it now can be considered by ANSI.
“i3 is an American National Standard candidate, and in the coming weeks NENA expects full ANSI approval, confirming that development of the standard complied with all ANSI Essential Requirements,” according to the NENA press release.
ANSI approval would be particularly significant, if legislative language proposed in March that would provide $15 billion in federal funding to accelerate NG911 deployment is enacted. Included in the LIFT America infrastructure proposal supported by House Democrats, the language effectively specifies that the money be used to fund NG911 deployments employ “commonly accepted standards” and that i3 would qualify only after it receives ANSI approval.
This treatment of i3 in the proposed legislative language has been source of frustration for NENA officials, as NENA CEO Brian Fontes outlined during an online event last month. Indeed, NENA’s i3 standard has served as the technical basis for the vast majority of NG911 upgrades initiated at the state and local levels within the United States, and many in the 911 community have questioned how NG911 funding would be used if i3-centric initiatives were not eligible.
Proponents of the NG911 language in the LIFT America proposal—wording supported by the Public Safety Next Generation 911 Coalition that include APCO and many public-safety associations—have downplayed the i3 concerns, noting that expected ANSI approval of i3 in the near term would make the issue moot.
But the i3 issue is not the only point of disagreement expressed by officials with NENA, NASNA and iCERT about the NG911 funding language in LIFT America proposal, as those organizations have raised questions about the cybersecurity scheme and the makeup of a key advisory committee included in the legislation.
There has been some indication that such disputes could be resolved in the near term, but there is no tangible evidence that it has happened to date. After being in the Democrat-backed LIFT America infrastructure package in March, no NG911 funding language has been included in more recent spending proposals from President Joe Biden, Capitol Hill Republicans or a bipartisan group in Congress, according to Beltway sources.
In addition, no standalone NG911 funding bill has been introduced yet, although Sen. Amy Klobuchar vowed three months ago that she would reintroduce NG911 funding legislation that she proposed in 2019.
Many in the 911 and broader public-safety communities believe that the massive spending packages for COVID-19 relief and infrastructure initiatives represent the best opportunities to get federal funding injected into the NG911 ecosystem. To date, NG911 has not been included in such initiatives, increasing the sense of urgency surrounding the most recent spending proposals—and the need for consensus about NG911, so it will be easier for Congress to take action—according to these Beltway and public-safety sources.
But other Beltway sources have indicated that the current spending proposals do not represent the last chance for federal NG911 funding, noting that 911 is the type of issue that can garner bipartisan support.
NENA volunteers have spent years developing NG911 standards, with the organization describing this Version 3 of i3 being the “keystone” of the portfolio. According to the NENA press release, Version 3 updates and changes include:
- New REST/JSON architecture, following modern best practices for interface design;
- Cybersecurity improvements;
- Major updates to call bridging;
- Discrepancy Reports;
- Outgoing Call Interface Function;
- Blind transfer support;
- Updates to handle novel call types (including non-interactive calls and Advanced Automatic Crash Notifications); and
- Harmonization with European specifications.
“i3 Version 3 represents the culmination of several years of effort by a large group of experts to produce a complete and interoperable specification implementable by all 9-1-1 authorities and vendors,” Brian Rosen, co-chair of the i3 Architecture Working Group, said in a prepared statement. “It adds new functionality requested by PSAPs and updates the specifications for software-application interfaces. i3v3 is undoubtedly the new standard for state and local NG9-1-1 RFPs, and vendors will now be able to upgrade their implementations with greater confidence.”