Nelson, Klobuchar Introduce Bill to Spur NG-911 Deployment

Sens. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) and Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) introduced legislation (S 2061) today to accelerate the deployment of next-generation 911 (NG-911) services. Among other things, the Next-Generation 9-1-1 Act of 2017 would expand a federal NG-911 grant program, although it doesn’t include a specific authorization level, would establish an advisory board to recommend updates to the definition of NG-911, and would state that it is the sense of Congress that the NG-911 transition “is a national priority and national imperative” and that it should be completed within a decade.

Sens. Nelson and Klobuchar had circulated a draft version their legislation in February (TR Daily, Feb. 28).

“Upgrading the nation’s 9-1-1 system is literally a life and death matter that must become more of a national priority,” said Sen. Nelson, who is ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.  “In this digital world, Americans must have more than one way to access the 9-1-1 assistance they need and expect when emergencies occur.  No plea for help should go unanswered because a call center doesn’t have the technology to receive a text, video or picture.”

“As a former prosecutor and co-chair of the NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus in the Senate, I know how important it is for our first responders, law enforcement officers, and public safety leaders to be able to communicate seamlessly during times of crisis,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “Our legislation would provide state and local governments with the resources they need to efficiently transition to NG 9-1-1 and strengthen our country’s emergency response networks.”

“While the legislation doesn’t put a specific price tag on implementing next generation 9-1-1 systems nationwide, the senators said they hope to receive soon a congressionally mandated analysis from the 9-1-1 Implementation Coordination Office to help better determine the cost,” a news release said. “A 2009 U.S. Department of Transportation study estimated it could range between $9.2 billion and $13.2 billion.”

The bill would extend the current NG-911 grant program for five years and authorize appropriations for fiscal years 2018 to 2022. It would also lower the matching requirement to 20% from 40%. In order to be eligible for grants, states would have to designate a state point of contact for NG-911 and submit a state plan for deployment. All funds would have to be used for NG-911 and could not be used for any part of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) system. However, states would have to coordinate with FirstNet to ensure that NG-911 services were interoperable with FirstNet.

A statement of policy in the bill states that NG-911 services should be “technologically and competitively neutral” and “conform to accredited, non-proprietary, consensus-based standards” and that governance of 911 systems “should remain at the State, regional, and local level[.]”

It would task the National 911 Program, which was created in 2004 as the 911 Implementation and Coordination Office, with creating a clearinghouse of NG-911 information for federal, state, and local entities and providing guidance on NG-911 governance to states and localities. It would also have to help stakeholders on cyber issues. The program also would have to prepare annual reports on NG-911 implementation beginning two years after the legislation is enacted. It also would have to prepare a report in a year with recommendations to states and local governments on the updating of any laws, regulations, and policies to facilitate NG-911 deployment.

The 17-member Advisory Board for Next Generation 9-1-1 Interoperability would be responsible for recommending any updates to the definition of NG-911 that was adopted in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2017. The program would have to approve the recommendations, which would then be adopted by the Commerce and Transportation departments.

The bill would require the National Institute of Standards and Technology to prepare a report within 18 months on NG-911 cyber vulnerabilities and how they can be addressed using NIST’s cyber framework. The FCC would have to prepare a report in the same timeframe on whether companies and public safety answering points (PSAPs) are following 911 best practices.

The Government Accountability Office would have to prepare a report within 18 months on PSAP resiliency during disasters. The report would have to examine how PSAP and overall NG-911 resiliency could be improved and whether the FCC could take other actions on that front.

In response to the introduction of the legislation, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, “Today, roughly 240 million calls are made each year to 911. But like so much else, we need to remake our 911 services to reflect the digital age we live in. The future will bring Next Generation 9-1-1 to call centers to support voice, text, data and video communications. But to get there, we need strong coordination, a focused effort, and real leadership. So kudos to Senator Nelson and Senator Klobuchar for introducing the Next Generation 9-1-1 Act of 2017.”

The National Emergency Number Association said it “applauds the introduction of legislation by Senators Nelson and Klobuchar designed to expedite the funding and deployment of Next Generation 911 systems nationwide. NENA looks forward to working with members of both parties to pass legislation that will bring our emergency infrastructure into the 21st century, to better serve the 650,000 Americans who call 911 every day.”

“iCERT congratulates Senators Nelson and Klobuchar on the introduction of legislation that will further the deployment of Next Generation 911 services in America, and which will enhance and upgrade the nation’s 911 systems as the points of first-access to emergency response,” said George Rice, executive director of the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies.  “Advances in both technology and resources are equally key to the success of NG911 deployment across the country.  We look forward to working with Congress to support technology and funding policies that will enable the country to realize the goal of nationwide NG911 by the year 2020.”

Last year, NENA, the National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA), and 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).- Paul Kirby,

Courtesy TRDaily