Most proposed NG911 funding slashed from latest reconciliation-bill text
About 95% of once-proposed federal funding to accelerate next-generation-911 (NG911) deployment nationwide was eliminated from the text of the $1.75 trillion reconciliation bill that was released yesterday, although the $500 million included still would be the largest federal 911 investment in history.
Reconciliation-bill text calls for $470 million to fund a nationwide NG911 grant program that could be used to plan, deploy, implement and maintain IP-based next-generation platforms, as well as fund training of personnel. The proposal also includes $20 million for administrative costs, $9 million to establish a new NG911 cybersecurity center, and $1 million to establish a 16-member Public Safety Next Generation 911 Advisory Board to provide recommendations to the NTIA assistant secretary administering the program.
Historically, 911 has been funded almost entirely at the state and local levels. The $500 million proposed in the latest reconciliation bill would more than double the 911 funding previously provided by the federal government for 911 purposes.
But the $500 million figure in the Build Back Better framework supported by President Joe Biden is a far cry from the $10 billion in NG911 funding approved by a House committee in September that was included in a previous version of the reconciliation bill that proposed $3.5 trillion in spending.
Cutting the federal funding in the proposed reconciliation bill by half—to the $1.75 trillion level—was done in an effort to secure support from moderate Democrats whose votes are needed to pass the massive spending package. This requirement resulted in many aspects of the $3.5 trillion proposal being cut entirely—for example, provisions for paid family leave—and other measures, like NG911, receiving reduced funding under the proposed spending package.
Congress is expected to consider the legislation next week and further changes to the reconciliation bill are still possible, multiple media reports noted.
Key NG911 stakeholder organizations like NENA, APCO and the Public Safety Next Generation 911 Coalition—a group of public-safety organizations that includes APCO that was established last year—did not respond to IWCE’s Urgent Communications requests for statements in time to be included in this article.
There is a consensus that the nation’s emergency communications centers (ECCs)—referenced as public-safety answering points (PSAPs) in the past—should migrate to the IP-based NG911 platform from the legacy technology that largely was developed 50 years ago and does not easily support multimedia communications. There also is agreement that significant federal funding is needed to deploy NG911 nationwide, so there is not a “patchwork quilt” of 911 capabilities throughout the U.S., based on resources and funding priorities.
Beltway and industry sources agreed that the $500 million included in the proposed budget-reconciliation bill would not be nearly enough to provide the kind of one-time federal funding envisioned to ensure that all 911 centers in 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia are using NG911 technology.
In October 2018, a cost study was released that estimated it would cost between $9.5 billion to $12.7 billion in one-time federal funds to deploy solutions that would make NG911 a reality nationwide, but legislative efforts to provide funds for such a grant program garnered little support since the study was released.
NG911 funding language supported by the Public Safety Next Generation 911 Coalition called for $15 billion for NG911 was proposed in April as part of a House infrastructure proposal, but it is not part of the current $1.25 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that is still pending approval in the House..
Last month, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced a standalone Senate bill to provide federal funding for next-generation 911 (NG911) technology in 911 centers. That bill features the same language used in the $10 billion proposal that was included in the version of the reconciliation bill that totaled $3.5 trillion.