Next-Generation 9-1-1 Coalition Asks Senators to Increase NG 9-1-1 Funding in Proposed Bill
Thursday, August 25, 2022 | Comments

The Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition sent a letter to U.S. Senate leadership asking them to amend a bill the Senate is currently considering to include more funding for the transition to next generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1).

At the end of July, the U.S. House of Representatives approved House Resolution 7624, which would provide up to $10 billion in funding for the NG 9-1-1 transition. The bill would require the FCC to auction off spectrum in the 3.1 – 3.45 GHz band.

Following the auction of the band, $3.4 billion would go to fund reimbursements under the Secure and Trusted Communications Network 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 threat to national security from their networks. The remainder of the funds, with a cap of $10 billion, would go to fund NG 9-1-1 around the country.

The coalition’s letter was sent to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Chair Maria Cantwell; Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker; Subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband Chair Ben Ray Lujan; and Subcommittee Ranking Member John Thune. In the letter, the coalition said that at least $15 billion is likely needed to complete the transition to NG 9-1-1 and that the Senate could achieve that through a bipartisan amendment that would remove the $10 billion cap.

“Our conclusion that at least $15B is needed to fully fund NG 9-1-1 is based on a prior congressionally mandated study that was published in 2018,” the letter said. “Using cost data dating back to prior years and a narrower vision of what full deployment entails, the study estimated the cost to be $12.7B. Accounting for cost increases, as well as additional cybersecurity and training requirements, our coalition is concerned that providing less than $15B will result in cybersecurity vulnerabilities and a patchwork of have and have-not communities, with rural areas most likely to fall behind.”

The coalition said that the proposed amendment should also give the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which would administer NG 9-1-1 grants under the bill, borrowing authority. Borrowing authority would allow the NTIA to start the grant program as soon as possible if the bill passes.

“Borrowing authority is critical to success, particularly if funding comes from spectrum auctions and revenue would otherwise not be available for several years,” the letter said.

The coalition said that an amendment would be the easiest way to make these changes but said that it supports any support of legislative vehicle that would make the NG 9-1-1 program successful. In closing the letter, it argued that Congress has a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to further the NG 9-1-1 transition.

“This opportunity to modernize 9-1-1 is once in a lifetime,” the letter said. “We need to ensure that our nation’s 9-1-1, law enforcement, fire/rescue and emergency medical services have the tools they need to protect and save lives. Today’s 9-1-1 system is already a target for cybercriminals, and NG 9-1-1 must be fully protected at the outset to keep our nation’s emergency communications infrastructure safe and secure. With your assistance, we can lead the world in implementing an advanced and effective emergency response capability, from local emergencies to large-scale disasters, that will protect our communities and save the lives of the public and first responders.”

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