Federal grant funding to support call center infrastructure upgrades is expected to become available early next year.
The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) took a small step toward providing states and localities new funding for next generation upgrades to the national 911 call center infrastructure.
A notice of proposed rulemaking was published Thursday for the 911 Grant Program — a $110 million federal matching grant program jointly run by the DOC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and Department of Transportation (DOT). The rule proposal opens the grant's implementation regulations to public comment until early November and puts the federal government one step closer to providing new funding to a federated effort already underway in many states and localities.
“Today’s notice is an important step for the 911 Grant Program that will modernize antiquated 911 services across the country,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement Thursday. “Next Generation 911 will save lives by being faster and more reliable, and by better connecting first responders to key health and government services in the event of an emergency.”
The grant funding offered by the program is a product of the NG911 Advancement Act of 2012, which was designed to assist the nation's approximately 6,000 public safety answering points upgrade their technology to meet the evolution of consumer-grade products that increasingly rely on data-based communications such as images, texting, and video.
States are permitted to use the grant funds for the "adoption and operation of NG911 services and applications; and the implementation of IP-enabled emergency services and applications enabled by NG911 services, including the establishment of IP backbone networks and the application layer software infrastructure needed to interconnect the multitude of emergency response organizations," according to the current rule proposal.
Data collected in 2016 by DOT shows that 20 of 46 states participating in the survey have adopted a statewide plan for next generation 911, and 17 of those states are installing and testing basic components of that infrastructure. Large cities like New York and Philadelphia have also in recent months announced years-long programs to implement the new technology, usually by starting with text-to-911 capabilities before moving on to more advanced features.
The new federal funding is expected to be awarded in early 2018, and be distributed according to a formula based on state populations and public road mileage. The maximum grant amounts, according to the current rule proposal, will be $500,000 per state and $250,000 per territory.