APCO, NENA Emphasize Need for NG-911 Tech Interoperability

The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International and the National Emergency Number Association released a statement today emphasizing the need for next-generation 911 (NG-911) technologies to be “interoperable and interconnected including equipment currently described as NENA I3 ‘compliant.’”

The statement said that on July 29, “the Executive Committee and Executive Director/CEO of APCO International met with the Chair Officers and CEO of NENA in Alexandria, Virginia. The collegial and productive meeting resulted in consensus by both associations for the need for all Next Generation 9-1-1 technologies to be both interoperable and interconnected including equipment currently described as NENA I3 ‘compliant’. The two associations also discussed and agreed on the need for federal funding to enable state and local governments to transition to Next Generation technologies as well as the need for consistent and transparent messaging concerning the current state of Next Generation 9-1-1 equipment offerings. It is anticipated that future joint communications concerning these topics will be forthcoming in the next 30 to 60 days.”

The statement comes after APCO and NENA clashed in March on the suitability of NENA’s i3 standard for NG-911 services (TR Daily, March 23). The NENA board then released a detailed statement blasting APCO for an earlier statement that it issued criticizing the i3 standard and suggesting that another one be pursued for NG-911 services.

The APCO statement cited draft NG-911 legislation circulated in the Senate (TR Daily, Feb. 28). “Among its many helpful provisions, the draft bill calls for an ‘accredited, non-proprietary, consensus-based, standards’ approach for all aspects of NG 9-1-1 services. The inclusion of this language is vital to APCO members and public safety communications professionals around the country that are looking to transition to NG 9-1-1,” APCO Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Derek Poarch said in the statement. “Accordingly, it is important for our community to understand the goals for NG 9-1-1 that we need to achieve, why NENA’s i3 presently fails to satisfy the draft bill’s requirements, and the path to ensuring 9-1-1 benefits from the innovation and flexibility enjoyed in the commercial sector.”

“NENA’s i3 is frequently referenced as a ‘standard’ for NG 9-1-1, but i3 is not a standard as described in the draft bill, nor does it ensure we achieve the objectives outlined above that are necessary for a truly successful roll-out of NG 9-1-1,” he added. “While NENA became an ANSI-accredited SDO [standards development organization] in 2013, it is very important to understand that i3 is not an accredited, consensus-based standard (through ANSI or any other accrediting body). Although i3 has been in development for at least 10 years, NENA has not utilized the ANSI processes needed to make it an accredited standard.”

In its March response, NENA issued a statement from its board of directors. “NENA’s i3 architecture standard is accepted and supported by industry and public safety practitioners around the world. Hundreds of developers, including members of NENA and APCO and many commercial partners, have worked diligently to develop both the i3 standard itself, and the broader family of NG9-1-1 standards built on the i3 architecture. These efforts have paid off spectacularly: The i3 standard is the universally-acknowledged basis for public safety deployments of NG9-1-1 systems,” NENA said. “In short, APCO’s characterizations of the i3 standard are simply wrong. By sowing doubt about the best way forward, APCO has endangered the timely roll-out of NG9-1-1 systems for the American public whom we serve.”

“The current revision of i3 (revision 2), was developed using NENA’s ANSI-accredited standards processes, ensuring openness, inclusivity, fairness, and due process to all stakeholders. However, NENA chose not to make revision 2 a candidate American National Standard, because we wanted more experience with ANSI processes before submitting a standard of i3’s complexity,” NENA said. “The NENA Development Group is actively working on i3 revision 3, using the same ANSI-accredited process. As an American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited Standards Development Organization, NENA notified ANSI in 2015 that this revision will be a candidate American National Standard.”

The March statements from the groups prompted the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT) and the National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA) to endorse the i3 standard (TR Daily, March 23 and 27).

APCO declined to comment today in response to questions about today’s APCO/NENA statement, including whether the group is acknowledging through the statement that NENA’s assertion that the i3 standard is a legitimate standard that should continue to be pursued.

NENA Chief Executive Officer Brian Fontes told TR Daily that the joint statement released today is “a step in the right direction,” adding that “it’s good when two organizations work cooperatively.” He said both groups agree about the importance of interoperability and that educating public safety agencies is important as they issue the NG-911 request for proposals (RFPs).

However, he said that it would have been better if APCO had specifically said it would support the i3 standard when it is accredited by ANSI.

A public safety official told TR Daily that today’s statement by the public safety groups was “an effort to kind of mend bridges a little bit.”

“NASNA appreciates the efforts of APCO and NENA to meet to discuss this important topic,” NASNA Executive Director Evelyn Bailey told TR Daily. “State 911 administrators across the nation are focused on NG911, and a few statewide and regional NG911 systems are operational. Several more have implemented at least some NG911 system components and others are preparing for or are in the midst of procurements. There are aspects of NG911 that are not within a state’s control. For example, equipment manufacturers, software and application developers, telecommunications carriers, originating NG911 service providers, etc., all need to do their part to work toward the vision expressed in APCO’s statement. NASNA looks forward to the time when the promise of NG911 will be fully achieved, and we support NENA and APCO’s positive efforts to promote it.”

“We are pleased to see the APCO-NENA inter-association collaboration under way regarding the future of Next Generation 911 technologies and standards,” iCERT Executive Director George Rice told TR Daily. “In that iCERT’s members manufacture, install and maintain the technologies that bring NG911 to life in comm centers, and as companies continue to invest in research and development on these technologies, having a clear consensus for the nationwide implementation of NG911 will be crucial to its eventual success.”

APCO and NENA have disagreed before on issues, although they have also worked together with industry on consensus 911 proposals presented to the FCC. An example of an area where they have taken separate paths is broader advocacy concerning NG-911 deployment.

Last year, NENA, NASNA, and iCERT announced the formation of the NG911 NOW Coalition to push for nationwide NG-911 deployment by the end of 2020 (TR Daily, Feb. 23, 2016). APCO did not join the coalition, but it said that its “Project 43 efforts will be very compatible with the work of the NG911 Now Coalition.”  Project 43, which was also launched last year (TR Daily, Feb. 10, 2016), is addressing broadband implications for public safety answering points (PSAPs). —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily