This past week the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution (H.R.) 2, otherwise known as the Moving Forward Act. H.R. 2 is a package of infrastructure bills that seek to revitalize and improve upon critical areas of country such as providing broadband access to schools and upgrades to an aging national transportation system. Included in the Moving Forward Act, is a $12 billion grant program that will help progress NG911 deployments in this country.
The Moving Forward Act totals more than $1.5 trillion and would include significant investments in affordable housing, surface transportation, broadband, water infrastructure, clean energy, and other initiatives. The bill is part of the overall Moving Forward Framework first introduced by House Democrats in January 2020.
The $12 billion grant program is a much needed shot in the arm to speed up NG9-1-1 deployments nationwide. Such deployments require a ground-up replacement of PSAPs’ existing 9-1-1 networks for the delivery of emergency calls. Legacy systems cannot natively support implementation of communications features that are easily achieved through secured IP networks such as streaming video or photos. NG9-1-1 deployments requirement significant planning as well as dedicated funding while local PSAPs still maintain legacy services in tandem. As NG9-1-1 deployments are a capital investment, PSAPs or local 9-1-1 authorities may require a few years to build up capital reserve budgets to prepare for the purchase of such systems. The availability and infusion of federal grant dollars from the Moving Forward Act to local budgets may see some PSAPs upgrade their 9-1-1 systems sooner than previously projected which benefits the local communities.
NG9-1-1 would protect American lives by allowing callers to send text messages, images, or videos to 9-1-1 to help responders better assess the nature of an emergency and reach people in need. Additionally, NG9-1-1 would provide PSAPs with greater flexibility to reroute 9-1-1 calls to alternative PSAPs during times when call volume exceeds capacity or the PSAP is unable to receive calls due to a natural disaster.
Although passed in the House, the bill still has an uphill battle when it reaches the U.S. Senate. The Moving Forward Act’s $1.5 trillion price tag is significantly higher than the originally proposed ~$760 billion price tag. Republicans view the bill has a Democratic partisan bill filled with untenable conditions tied to the various funding allocations in the bill. The bill’s efforts to improve on our nation’s infrastructure, primarily in the transportation arena, is also packed with green mandates that may not be achieveable. Other problems with the bill is the appearance of throwing funding at problems that cannot be solved, such as a failing USPS system and a non-profitable Amtrak system.
This is par for the course for these types of large funding packages. Each side of the political aisle is expected to jockey for those programs that are important to the respective political parties. Unfortunately, this has also been par for the course with any federal grant funding towards NG9-1-1 deployments. This bill’s next stage will be monitored closely by 9-1-1 professionals and our industry organizations to continue to advocate for NG9-1-1 and the need for additional funding to aid PSAPs to upgrading to modern technology.
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