Coalition Endorses NG-911 Legislation, Criticizes Others

Credit: TR Daily

The Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition today endorsed NG-911 legislation that is included in the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America (LIFT America) Act, which was introduced by the 32 Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week (TR Daily, March 11). The package includes $15 billion for grants to fund NG-911 deployment. But the coalition criticized NENA and the National Association State 911 Administrators (NASNA) for opposing the legislation.

The coalition said in a news release today that it “helped develop and fully supports the Next Generation 9-1-1 legislation that was included in the LIFT America Act with the leadership of Representatives Frank Pallone [D., N.J.] and Anna Eshoo [D., Calif.]. The Coalition’s approach is to secure the best outcome for public safety professionals and the communities they serve as they carry out their life-saving missions. Accordingly, the Coalition believes that this legislation is deserving of widespread bipartisan support throughout Congress. Unfortunately, some parties that disagree with the Coalition’s public safety-oriented principles are spreading misinformation about the legislation.”

Capt. Mel Maier, commander of the Emergency Communications and Operations Division of the Oakland County (Mich.) Sheriff’s Office who is a spokesman for the coalition, told TR Daily this afternoon that “some parties” in the news release “refers to a number of groups that are opposed to the legislation including NENA, based upon an inaccurate interpretation of bill language.”

He added that “NASNA is included in that category, which is surprising as they participated with our Coalition and in the development of the bill, and much of what they had identified as important was certainly included in the bill.”

NENA and NASNA are not included on the coalition’s letterhead, as eight other major public safety groups are.

The coalition said in today’s news release that legislation it supports will (1) “[n]ot only build upon current investments but rescue public safety agencies from being left with overly costly, substandard, incomplete, and non-interoperable solutions”; (2) “[e]nsure that technology standards prevalent in the consumer marketplace, and which have led to enormous innovation, interoperability, and economies of scale, are employed for NG9-1-1”; (3) “[e]nsure that other standards that vendors desire to use have the approval of a well-recognized standards development accreditation body”; (4) “[a]dhere to the cybersecurity protections for 9-1-1 recommended by an esteemed federal advisory committee”; (5) “[c]reate a well-rounded, balanced, and efficient advisory board composed of a cross-section of public safety professionals to provide initial and ongoing expertise to the federal agency responsible for administering the grant program”; and (6) “[n]ot only preserve state and local control of NG9-1-1 operations but ensure that diverse local public safety input is fully accounted for in all NG9-1-1 plans and grant applications.”

The coalition added that it “is solely motivated by what is needed by public safety professionals as they carry out their missions to save and protect the public every day. The Coalition appreciates the federal commitment to fund the transition to NG9-1-1 and respects the need to ensure that federal funds are expended in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Our grassroots effort will serve to express our support for the NG9-1-1 legislation, educate and, when necessary, dispel any misconceptions.”

NASNA recently called on Congress to pass NG-911 legislation that retains “the management of 911 systems at the State, regional, and local levels” while facilitating cooperation among entities nationwide (TR Daily, March 2).

In a letter to House and Senate leaders, NASNA said, “There are other interests that are raising new proposals to the framework that was previously agreed upon. While perhaps well-intentioned, those proposals would substantially disrupt the efforts of State authorities to develop, implement, and operate NG911 systems. Those changes include establishing a Federal NG911 security operations center, the creation of a new Federal program to drive development of new NG911 standards and technologies, and adding restrictive requirements for credentialing and access management.”

NASNA added, “We agree that NG911 security, standards, and credentialing are all important issues, which is why they are all currently being addressed by State 911 authorities. We urge you to reject these proposals and to move promptly to introduce legislation consistent with the bill language we have attached.”

NASNA Executive Director Harriet Rennie-Brown, who signed the letter to congressional leaders, told TR Daily that the “other interests” mentioned in the letter was a reference to the coalition, whose members include a number of major public safety groups. The coalition has pushed draft legislation that would call for a “nationwide strategy” to deploy NG-911 (TR Daily, Sept. 1, 2020).

In response to the LIFT America Act, NENA Chief Executive Officer Brian Fontes said, “The infrastructure bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix the cracks in the foundation of all public safety response: America’s 9-1-1 systems. It is absolutely essential that we get it right. But unfortunately, the language introduced today could strand already-substantial state investments in NG9-1-1 deployments, and create cybersecurity risks for state, local, and tribal governments.”

NENA noted that it has asked lawmakers “to build on the widely supported language of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Act of 2019, a bipartisan bill that enjoys the backing of more than 17,000 local 9-1-1 administrators and front-line dispatchers, as well as state 9-1-1 administrators and industry leaders.”

Mr. Fontes added, “There is already widespread agreement in the 9-1-1 community on the standards and technologies needed to make Next Generation 9-1-1 a reality in every community within this decade. What we need now is a major federal commitment and a workable policy framework to get it done.”

In response to the coalition’s news release today, Dan Henry, NENA’s regulatory counsel and director-government affairs, said, “Funding for NG9-1-1 is absolutely essential for public safety and for all those we protect.  As the only association solely dedicated to 9-1-1, we’re committed to working with Congress and all others to ensure effective legislation and a successful NG9-1-1 grant program.”

NASNA had no immediate comment. —Paul Kirby,