GM 17-050

Departments of Commerce and Transportation (Agencies) Seek Comments on Direct Tribal Participation in the 911 Grant Program

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are seeking comments on proposed rulemaking to modernize the 911 grant program pursuant to the Next Generation 911 (NG911) Advancement Act of 2012 (Act). The Act included tribal eligibility for grants but no funding had been available for the program since 2009. In 2016, $115 million from the auction of spectrum was made available for the 911 grants. Hence, the Agencies are now updating the regulations for the upcoming round of grants. Any 911 grant funding tribes received in the past would have come through the state.

The deadline for receipt of comments is November 6, 2017. The notice of proposed rulemaking published in the September 21, 2017, FEDERAL REGISTER can be found here:

Under the 911 grant program Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) serve as centers to answer emergency calls for police, firefighting and ambulance services. The Agencies note that most state and local jurisdictions are now ready to transition to the NG911 infrastructure as envisioned by the 2012 law referenced above so that “citizens, first responders and 911 call-takers can use IP-based, broadband-enabled technologies to coordinate emergency responses.”

The proposed regulations would allow Tribal Organizations to directly apply for 911 grant program funds (if other statutory criteria are met), while retaining the current framework under which states can apply for funding on behalf of all entities within their jurisdiction. The Agencies recognize tribal sovereignty and note that tribes do not currently receive adequate funding to improve their PSAPs and note the difficulties faced by tribes whose jurisdiction crosses state lines. Specifically, the Agencies are seeking feedback on the following matters:

1. If the 911 grant program were open to Tribal Organizations directly, would tribal PSAPs be able to meet the application requirements provided in proposed 47 CFR 400.4, including statutory requirements such as the matching requirement and non-diversion certifications? What would be the challenges with providing the necessary certifications, if any?

2. Tribal Organization applying for a 911 program grant must identify the designated State 911 Coordinator(s) and provide certifications that the Tribal Organization has not diverted designated 911 charges. What would be the challenges associated with providing this information, if any?

3. Do the tribal PSAPs collect 911 surcharge fees and/or receive State provided 911 surcharge funds? If so, are Tribal Organizations able to certify that tribal sub-entities are not diverting 911 surcharge fees?

4. What other tribal PSAP issues or challenges should the agencies consider when determining how to involve tribal entities in this grant program?

Also requested is feedback on whether a formula-based approach for Tribal Organization grants is the most equitable way to distribute grants funds. Under the proposal the cap on tribal grants would be $250,000 and it would be based on a ratio of 50 percent population and 50 percent road mileage. This is the same formula used for states whose maximum grant is $500,000. The Agencies would be authorized to allocate 2 percent of available grant funds to tribal organizations.

“Tribal Organization” would be defined as provided in the Act:
Tribal Organization means the recognized governing body of any Indian tribe; any legally established organization of Indians which is controlled, sanctioned, or chartered by such governing body or which is democratically elected by the adult members of the Indian community to be served by such organization and which includes the maximum participation of Indians in all phases of its activities; Provided, that in any case where a contract is let or grant made to an organization to perform services benefiting more than one Indian tribe, the approval of each such Indian tribe shall be a prerequisite to the letting or making of such contract or grant.

Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding the proposed NG911 regulations or provide assistance in filing comments.