Public Safety Advocate: Infrastructure Bill–Next-Generation 9-1-1, Rural Broadband; FirstNet MegaRange

This week’s Public Safety Advocate is the first to be dictated to my computer using the Nuance Dragon Professional speech-to-text program. Many of you may know that I have experienced vision problems in the last month. Talk about work-arounds, it has taken a while to set up a system with which I can hear messages I receive and listen to news feeds I rely on to prepare my Advocates using my voice.

This week I will be writing about Next-Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) and the $15 billion bill to fund the build-out that is currently included in the much larger infrastructure bill, the LIFT America Act, which was recently introduced in the House of Representatives. The importance of NG911 cannot be overstated. As I have said many times before, I believe implementing NG911 nationwide is critical to providing our first responders with the information they need as they respond to incidents. I see NG911 as the incoming pipe through which citizens will feed the FirstNet broadband pipe that will enable first responders to receive texts, photographs, and even videos as they are responding to incidents.

Next-Generation 9-1-1 (NG911)

It is vitally important that NG911 funding remain in the infrastructure bill and that Congress understand that this bill has been discussed, reviewed, and drafted by the public-safety community. The public-safety community believes this bill, as written, will provide the necessary funding and framework to successfully prioritize and implement this critical infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), which has been deeply involved in NG911 for a number of years, appears to have some issues with the wording of the NG911 portion of the bill. It appears NENA wants the bill to include a specific technology it has developed. I and others believe including a specific technology in any bill before Congress is not a good idea.

Think back to when Congress approved FirstNet in February 2012. In that law, Congress did not stipulate LTE as the technology to be used. Rather, it specified that the network technology should be a worldwide standard and be approved by the 3GPP. If Congress had required FirstNet to be built with LTE, FirstNet’s current move to add 5G to the network would not be permitted. Once again, public safety would be left out of the latest broadband technology.

Sadly, Brian Fontes, CEO of NENA, appears to be at odds with what the public-safety community believes is needed for NG911 funding and its system requirements. This is the second time Mr. Fontes has opposed the needs of the public-safety community. During our quest for Congress approval of FirstNet, he spoke out against what the Public Safety Alliance (PSA) and other public-safety organizations wanted and needed in the way of a Nationwide Public-Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN).

It is truly unfortunate that he feels his organization’s priorities are more important than those of the rest of the public-safety community.

FirstNet MegaRange

Prior to my vision problems, I had done extensive drive testing with FirstNet MegaRange, or High-Power User Equipment (HPUE), using the Airgain Connect HPUE antenna and a Sierra Wireless MG-90 router. On May 5, I will take part in a webinar about MegaRange that will be hosted by IWCE. There is also a white paper that includes all my test data and more detail on my testing methodology posted on the Airgain website.

Rural Broadband

In addition to addressing NG911, the infrastructure bill includes a lot of money to finally provide broadband and Internet connectivity to every U.S. citizen.

While it will be a while before all the details of the infrastructure bill are agreed to and then voted upon, I am hopeful that funding for rural broadband and Internet will be overseen by a single agency within the federal government and not like today with multiple agencies controlling multiple grants and loans without coordination or plans for continued broadband services build-outs.

Funding rural broadband and Internet is an important first step to solving the problem of the digital divide. However, I feel strongly that the effort must be overseen by a single federal agency charged with working with state and local government agencies. I am concerned that it will take longer and cost more than it should if pre-planning discussions must be held with each and every state and local municipality.

As this infrastructure bill moves through Congress, I will be watching both the Next-Generation 9-1-1 and Digital Divide portions and will continue to keep you updated.

It’s nice to be back…

Andrew Seybold
©2021 Andrew Seybold, Inc. 


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