Courtesy: TR Daily
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) has announced that she plans to reintroduce next-generation 911 (NG-911) legislation in the Senate and said she hopes it will be included in an infrastructure package that moves in that chamber. The legislation would establish a federal grant program, she noted.
In pre-taped remarks for a virtual awards ceremony organized by the Next Generation 911 Institute in conjunction with NENA’s virtual 911 Goes to Washington event, Sen. Klobuchar said she would reintroduce the NG-911 bill with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.).
Ms. Klobuchar, a Senate co-chair of the Congressional Next-Gen 9-1-1 Caucus, said that provisions of NG-911 legislation she introduced in the 116th Congress were included in House infrastructure bill that passed the House last summer (TR Daily, July 1, 2020).
The senator’s office did not reply to a question today on when Sen. Klobuchar planned to reintroduce the legislation.
In other remarks, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said she wants to work with her colleagues on bipartisan NG-911 legislation. She also noted that Congress has directed the FCC to address the diversion by states of 911 fees for other purposes.
Also, Rep. Richard Hudson (R., N.C.), a House co-chair of the Congressional Next-Gen 9-1-1 Caucus, said NG-911 issues are traditionally bipartisan.
Meanwhile, NENA and National Association of 911 Administrators (NASNA) officials who spoke at the 911 event reiterated their call for Congress to make what they suggested are minor changes to NG-911 provisions in the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America (LIFT America) Act. The Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT) also expressed support for changes to the bill.
The LIFT America Act, which was introduced by the 32 Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee (TR Daily, March 11), includes $15 billion for grants to fund NG-911 deployment.
NENA Chief Executive Officer Brian Fontes said he wants to “set the record straight” on comments by “another organization” that he said “has mischaracterized NENA as opposing the legislation. That is clearly not the case. We do, however, support improving the language in a few areas of the statute.”
“We do believe they’re easy fixes, and we hope that those fixes will be made,” Mr. Fontes said, adding that “through these changes, we are convinced that the grant program will be more efficient, effective, and achievable in a timely manner.”
Mr. Fontes had no comment in response to a TR Daily question via e-mail about whether he was referring to the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International, which has noted concerns that NENA and NASNA have with the bill and said that complaints about the legislation “are based either on misrepresentations of the bill language or just plain misinformation” (TR Daily, March 31). APCO is one of eight major public safety groups lobbying for the bill as part of the Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1- Coalition.
Dan Henry, NENA’s regulatory counsel and director-government affairs, said that the group’s top priority concerning the legislation is modifying the definition of “commonly accepted standards,” which he said could exclude NENA’s i3 standard.
The definition of commonly accepted standards should not require the i3 standard, GIS (geographic information system) standards, and other standards to be approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and meet the bill’s definition of “interoperable” while not requiring other standards to meet that definition, NENA and NASNA have argued. NENA has 50 standards that haven’t been approved by ANSI, Mr. Henry said.
Mr. Henry said that lawmakers should modify the bill so commonly accepted standards are those “followed by the communications industry that enable interoperability, are consensus-based, and are developed by recognized standards development organizations.”
Mr. Henry detailed other changes that NENA and NASNA are pushing in the NG-911 legislation.
He said that (1) the definition of “interoperable” should recognize that proprietary interfaces may be needed during the NG-911 transition, (2) the Public Safety Advisory Board should be staffed with NG-911 experts, (3) the mission of a nationwide NG-911 security operations center should be clarified or establishment of the center should be deleted from the bill, and (4) Congress should defer to the FCC on reliability requirements rather than imposing additional mandates.
NASNA President Maria Jacques and NASNA Executive Director Harriet Rennie-Brown also discussed the NG-911 legislation, especially the current standards definition.
“This goes way beyond the battle of NENA i3,” Ms. Jacques said. “What about the other standards” of NENA’s and GIS standards that are not ANSI accredited? she asked.
Don Brittingham, president of consulting firm Northern Lights Consulting LLC and chair of iCERT’s Policy Committee, outlined concerns his group has with the NG-911 legislation.
He said it is also concerned with the standards definition, saying it is “overly prescriptive” and “inherently biased.” He said the bill treated i3 and other standards unfairly and said that lawmakers should amend the bill to support all NG-911 standards.
Regarding cyber provisions, Mr. Brittingham said iCERT has concerns that the bill, through establishment of the national NG-911 security operations center, puts responsibilities on the federal government instead of states.
Instead, the bill should mirror a recommendation by the FCC’s Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture (TFOPA) dealing with implementation of state-based emergency communications cybersecurity centers (EC3) to provide intrusion detection and protection services for public safety answering points (PSAPs) in states.
Mr. Brittingham also said there should be “explicit requirements” allowing grant funds to be used for cybersecurity.
In other remarks at today’s show, Rep. Norma Torres (D., Calif.), a former 911 dispatcher, noted that the 911 Supporting Accurate Views of Emergency Services (911 SAVES) Act that she introduced recently with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) (TR Daily, April 2) has 50 cosponsors.
She said more cosponsors will convince the House Education and Labor Committee to hold a hearing on the legislation, and 290 cosponsors would allow the bill to be brought directly to the House floor. “Your voice is more critical than ever,” she told the public safety community.
The legislation would direct the Office of Management and Budget to change the classification of 911 dispatchers in the Standard Occupational Classification catalog. The dispatchers are currently classified as administrative support staff; advocates of the change want them to be classified as a protective service occupation. NENA said passage of the legislation is its No. 2 legislative goal after the NG-911 bill.
David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, ran down a list of 911 and other issues that the agency has worked on.
For example, he said the agency is “on track” to meet a June 25 statutory deadline for adopting new 911 fee diversion rules and expects a 911 fee diversion “strike force” to begin meeting in May or June. The panel is required to submit a report to Congress by Sept. 23. “We’ve been really pleased by the quality of the nominations that we’ve gotten,” Mr. Furth said.
Mr. Furth also noted that the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has launched an inquiry into whether national wireless service providers are complying with Commission rules that required them to start delivering 911 callers’ vertical location information by April 3 (TR Daily, April 2), but he said he couldn’t comment further. —Paul Kirby, email@example.com
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