NTIA Official Details Results from NG 9-1-1 Grant Funding Program
Tuesday, August 16, 2022 | Comments
A National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) official detailed the results of a next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) grant program during the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International conference August 8 – 10.

The grants were first awarded in 2019, and overall, the NTIA awarded a total of $109 million to 36 different organizations. Organizations were able to use the grant funds to purchase NG 9-1-1 capable equipment, geographic information system (GIS) activities to improve and enhance location accuracy, emergency services IP network (ESInet) migration, training focused on NG 9-1-1 and cybersecurity assessments, said NTIA Program Manager Yuki Miyamoto. The grants were not intended to help organizations pay for continued NG 9-1-1 operational costs.

“It was really about the migration to NG 9-1-1 and not providing operational funds,” Miyamoto said.

Of the participants, 15 chose to use the funds for training, five used the funds for cybersecurity assessments, 22 used them for equipment upgrades, 20 used it for migrating to an ESInet and 21 used it for GIS activities. Participants were able to use the funds for a variety of different activities and did not just have to focus on one.

The grant program ended in March, and is currently in a closeout period. As part of the program, 440 emergency communications centers (ECCs) migrated to ESInets. Additionally, grantees reported that all told, 705 ECCs upgraded equipment to NG 9-1-1, and 133 counties upgraded their mapping, Miyamoto said.

One of the biggest challenges during the grant period was supply chain issues that arose due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Miyamoto said. Several grantees decided on equipment but later had to change that plan due to supply chain issues in order to finish the project in time.

“Supply chain was definitely a challenge for many grantees,” Miyamoto said.

Another challenge for many of the grantees was the need to have extra time to review complex NG 9-1-1 service contracts.

“Some grantees issued RFIs and had gone down a particular path and realized that the procurement model would not be most effective so they had to go back and redo that procurement, which was difficult in a less than three-year time period,” Miyamoto said.

While the grant funding helped with the NG 9-1-1 transition, much more funding is still needed to complete the transition to NG 9-1-1. In July, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would provide up to $10 billion in grants to fund NG 9-1-1 through spectrum auctions. That bill is now awaiting a vote by the U.S. Senate.

In another session, members of the Public Safety NG 9-1-1 Coalition noted that if the bill passed, the funding would be a boon for NG 9-1-1 efforts but is not enough to fully complete the transition to NG 9-1-1.

“It is a lot of money, but when you start spreading it out, it becomes less and less,” said Laura Cooper, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, member of the coalition. “That money’s going to vanish quickly.”

Members of the coalition also noted that while the bill has passed the House, it faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

“I fully believe that there are a number of senators that aren’t fully bought into this,” Cooper said. “That’s not because they don’t like it but because they don’t understand it.”

Elliott Davis, communications supervisor for the Las Vegas Metro Police Department, said that one of the key challenges is quickly educating someone who might have little knowledge of the technology.

“Trying to make them an expert in an area like this as quickly as possible is difficult,” he said.

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