House Subcommittee Approves Bill That Could Provide Up to $10B in NG 911 Funding
Monday, June 20, 2022 | Comments
A proposed bill would take proceeds from an auction of the 3.1 – 3.45 GHz band and allocate a portion to expanding the implementation of next-generation 911 (NG 911).

Specifically, the auction would be mandated by HR 7624, the Spectrum Innovation Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Communications and Technology marked up last week. The original bill did not name what the auction proceeds would go to but an amendment in the nature of substitute (AINS) introduced by Rep. Bob Latta specifically allocates those funds to several purposes.

“This includes providing the Federal Communications Commission with the funding it needs to rip and replace all of the suspect network equipment made by vendors that pose a national security risk,” Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Michael Doyle said in his opening statement during a markup of that and other bills. “And, it will also provide the public with secure, reliable, advanced 911 communications networks for times of emergency and disaster.”

In his opening statement, Doyle emphasized the importance of NG 911.

“Sometimes a telephone call can’t fully convey the important information to first responders the way that a picture or video can,” Doyle said. “Next-generation 911 networks will allow these operations centers to communicate with the public in all of the ways we all communicate with one another. That will save the lives of our fellow Americans, including police and firefighters. We want to make sure this program is fully funded so that no community is left behind, and if the funding provided in this bill doesn’t do the job, we’ll be pushing and fighting to make it happen.”

The Spectrum Innovation Act would require that, no later than seven years after the enactment of the bill, the FCC auction off spectrum in the 3.1 – 3.45 band identified by a process laid out in the bill.

The auction proceeds would first go to cover relocation or sharing costs of incumbent federal users in the spectrum band. Then, $3.4 billion would go to the FCC to be used on reimbursements under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019. Under that bill, the FCC can provide reimbursements to small communications providers to offset the costs of removing and replacing equipment deemed to be a national security threat from their networks.

Finally, the remainder of the funds, with a cap of $10 billion will go to 9-1-1 Implementation Coordination Office within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to help with the transition to and implementation of NG 911.

That funding would be used to provide grants to support NG 911 implementation; gather collect and disseminate best practices and procedures for NG 911; provide technical assistance and establish a nationwide NG 911 cybersecurity center.

“As the old saying goes, you may only call 911 once in your life, but it will be the most important call you ever make,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement. “More than 600,000 people call 911 every day. Every one of those calls should be answered by a call center with full access to digital age technologies. I applaud the Communications and Technology Subcommittee for their leadership on upgrading our nation’s 911 systems and using the auction of our public airwaves to do it.”

Rosenworcel in the past has suggested using spectrum auction proceeds to fund NG 911 support and reiterated how it can improve 911 response by funding NG 911.

“There are more than 6,000 911 call centers across the country and many of them are using legacy technology built for an era when calls in crisis came strictly from landline phones,” Rosenworcel said. “We can do better than this. We can take the funds from our next spectrum auction to help make next-generation 911 a reality nationwide. I also applaud the Subcommittee for their continued focus on further funding to support the reimbursement program created by the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act. With these efforts, we are demonstrating once again that the safety and security of consumers is a top priority.”

The subcommittee voted 29-0 to move the bill onto the full House Committee on Energy and Commerce. If approved by the full committee, it will then move onto the House. Find the full text of the amended bill here.

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