Infrastructure Act Includes Cybersecurity, Broadband Funding; No NG 9-1-1 Funding
Thursday, August 05, 2021 | Comments

The $1 trillion infrastructure improvement act currently being considered by Congress does not include funding for next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1). The act does provide funding and direction for other critical communications initiatives such as improved cybersecurity and broadband.

While the act does not specifically provide funding for NG 9-1-1 deployment across the nation, it does require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to follow NG 9-1-1 recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). A 2018 GAO report recommended the NHTSA administrator, in consultation with appropriate federal agencies, determine the roles and responsibilities for agencies taking part in the National NG911 Roadmap initiative. The act requires NHTSA “to develop an implementation plan to support the completion of national level tasks” required by the initiative.

Earlier this year, 32 members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced an infrastructure package called the LIFT America Act that would have provided $15 billion in funding for NG 9-1-1. Those provisions did not make it into the infrastructure bill Democrats and Republicans have negotiated over the past few weeks.

While the bill does not provide NG 9-1-1 funding, it does establish a grant program aimed at furthering broadband deployment that would focus on providing grants to eligible entities in unserved or underserved areas to help bridge the digital divide. The bill would provide the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program with $42.45 billion to help close the digital divide by focusing on those areas.

The act defines unserved areas as areas in which a broadband-serviceable area has no access to broadband service or lacks access to reliable broadband service with speeds greater than 25 megabits per second (Mbps) or 3 Mbps for uploads and latency sufficient to support real-time and interactive applications.

Underserved areas are defined as areas without access to reliable broadband service with speeds greater than 100 Mbps per seconds for downloads and 20 Mbps for uploads and latency sufficient to support real-time and interactive applications.

The act directs the program to release a notice of funding opportunity for the grant funding no more than 180 days after the enactment of the act that lays out the requirements for the program.

Meanwhile, the act includes many provisions aimed at improving the nation’s cybersecurity position both for government agencies and critical infrastructure.

The act would direct the secretary of energy to work with the secretary of homeland security, federal agencies, state regulatory authorities, industry stakeholders and the Electric Reliability Organization to undertake a program to improve cybersecurity.

The program would work to develop and provide for voluntary implementation of maturity models, self assessments and auditing methods for assessing the physical security and cybersecurity of electric utilities; assist with threat assessment and cybersecurity training for electric utilities; provide technical assistance for electric utilities; provide training to electric utilities to address and mitigate cybersecurity supply chain management risks; advance the cybersecurity of third-party vendors that manufacture components of the electric grid; and increase opportunities for sharing best practices and data collection within the electric sensor.

The act would also direct the secretary of energy to, no later than one year after enactment of the act, submit a report to Congress that assesses ways to enhance cybersecurity and reduce vulnerabilities of the electrical generation system.

Additionally, the act would require the secretary of energy to create the Energy Cyber Sense program, which would be a voluntary program to test the cybersecurity of technologies and products intended for use in the energy sector.

The program would be required to establish a testing process for those products, establish and maintain cybersecurity vulnerability reporting processes, provide technical assistance to mitigate identified cybersecurity vulnerabilities, develop guidance informed by analysis and the test results for the procurement of products and technologies, and oversee the testing of products in the program, among other roles.

Further, the act would create direct the secretary of energy, the North American Electrical Reliability Corporation (NERC), the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners to conduct a study on incentives to encourage utilities to adopt advanced cybersecurity technologies.

Another portion of the act would create the Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance Program to provide grants and technical assistance to utilities to protect against, detect, respond to and recover from cybersecurity threats.

The act does not just focus on cybersecurity for the energy sector. Another portion of the act, entitled the “State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act” would work to create state and local cybersecurity grant program. That program would be aimed at awarding grants to help address cybersecurity risks and cybersecurity threats to IT systems owned or operated by state, local or tribal governments. Entities that receive those grants would be have to meet a series of requirements including having a cybersecurity plan and establishing a cybersecurity planning committee.

Additionally, the act would direct U.S. government agencies to perform activities to assess the effectiveness and costs of positive train control systems (PTC). The act would direct the U.S. comptroller general to conduct a study to determine the annual maintenance and system operation costs for PTC for public commuter railroads.

That report would be due to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure two years after the act is enacted.

The act would also amend the U.S. code to require railroads to submit reports on PTC system performance to the secretary of transportation on a quarterly basis. Required information in the reports would be the number of PTC system initialization failures, the number of PTC system cut outs, the number of PTC system malfunctions, the number of enforcements by the PTC system, the number of enforcements by the system in which it was reasonable to assume an accident or incident was prevented, the number of scheduled initialization attempts for the PTC system, number of train miles covered by the system and a summary of actions the railroad is taking to reduce initialization failures, cut outs and malfunctions.

The bill has not been passed by Congress yet as both houses continue to negotiate over amendments and other matters related to the bill.

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On 8/6/21, Mark Fletcher said:
Does anyone really believe that all these studies are going to produce a recommendation other than YES this is critical infrastructure that is required as technology and mobility has increased It s very disappointing to see that we re studying a topic that is well-known and well understood.


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