Klobuchar Touts Benefits of Planned NG-911 Legislation

February 28, 2017–Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said today that they are working on legislation to help spur the deployment of next-generation 911 (NG-911) services. The Next Generation 9-1-1 Act of 2017 “makes the transition to next-gen a national priority, and sets a specific date for the goal of completing the transition,” Ms. Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, told a luncheon event organized by the NG9-1-1 Institute.  The discussion draft of the bill obtained by TRDaily today leaves blank what that date would be.

“It maintains the current 911 state and local government structure while providing assistance from the federal government. It provides billions of dollars of federal funding through the existing 911 grant program to assist state[s] and localities in upgrading to next-gen,” Sen. Klobuchar said.

“We’re still discussing the appropriate level of funding, but we’ve heard estimates that the transition to next-gen will cost between 5 and 10 billion [dollars]. The grant program will include conditions to ensure that the funding is used effectively. States would have to identify a single point of contact for 911 issues and develop a plan for the deployment of next-gen 911 services built upon accredited non-proprietary consensus standards,” Ms. Klobuchar added.

The senator, who is a co-chair of the Next Generation 911 Caucus, also said the legislation would “bolster and streamline” the National 911 program so it can help in the NG-911 transition. The measure would also provide assistance to harden NG-911 systems from cyberattacks.

The bill “directs the federal government to provide administrative and procurement support for state and local efforts,” she added. “So we’re pretty excited about this.” “I think we should be in good shape,” she said of the legislation, noting that other senators from rural states, including Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R., S.D.), understand the issues. But she added, “I don’t want to be too much of a Pollyanna.”

Ms. Klobuchar said a draft of the bill would be released today, but her office said later that it did not have a draft to share, and Sen. Nelson’s office said the measure would not be issued until the bill is formally introduced. “I am working with Senator Klobuchar on a Next Generation 9-1-1 bill that would give states and localities the resources they need to accelerate the ongoing deployment of the next generation of 9-1-1 services,” Mr. Nelson said in a statement released by his office. “We believe that should be a national priority.  It is my hope that we will introduce and move this bill forward this spring.  I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Trump Administration to modernize this critical, life-saving infrastructure.”

Ms. Klobuchar also said today that she wants to see 911 grants distributed from the $115 million reserved from auction revenues in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. Discussing other issues of interest to the 911 community, Ms. Klobuchar also noted that the Senate Commerce Committee last month approved Kari’s Law Act (S 123) (TRDaily, Jan. 24), while the House has passed a companion bill (HR 582) (TRDaily, Jan. 23). “I think we’re going to get it done,” she said.

She also noted that there is a bipartisan push for inclusion of broadband projects in any infrastructure initiative put forward by the Trump administration and considered by Congress, and she said 911 funding should also be part of any such package. ““We just want to make sure we’re part of that train when it leaves the station,” she said.

The senator also expressed concern that the Trump administration’s proposal to cut domestic funding to provide additional resources for the military will hurt localities, including police departments and homeland security priorities “that are equally important to our protection and our security.” She also said she is pushing to upgrade the classification of public safety telecommunicators, which public safety groups are advocating, and said she wants to ensure more accurate location accuracy is deployed by the wireless industry.

At today’s luncheon, 911 leaders welcomed the planned NG-911 legislation. “Now we have the job of ensuring that this legislation actually becomes law,” said Brian Fontes, chief executive officer of the National Emergency Number Association.

Last year, NENA, the National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA), and the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT) announced the formation of the NG911 NOW Coalition to push for nationwide NG-911 deployment by the end of 2020 (TRDaily, Feb. 26, 2016).

During a panel discussion at today’s event, Jamison Peevyhouse, director of the Weakley County, Tenn., Emergency Communications District, said he welcomes any federal support for NG-911. He said that as a nationwide public safety broadband network is deployed and the American public continues to use the latest wireless services and devices, 911 systems will become the “weakest link” if they are not upgraded. “The longer it takes, the more it’s going to cost,” added Maria Jacques, state 911 director for Maine. “So it’s in all of our best interests as taxpayers to make it happen as soon as possible.” – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily