At the beginning of the third special session, we released a Federal Funds Playbook that examined several opportunities to address structural problems impacting our state by using a portion of the $15.8 billion in State Fiscal Recovery Funds made available to the Legislature through the American Rescue Plan Act. One of those opportunities, upgrading Texas’ emergency communications infrastructure, or Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1), is funded in the House’s version of Senate Bill 8.
NG9-1-1 technology enables new technical and operational capabilities, improving 9-1-1 communications for first responders during emergency calls and in natural and manmade disasters. Additionally, certain smartphone features can be used to help improve public safety and response for Texans. For example, location accuracy can be used to improve response time and multi-media alerts can also be leveraged to better inform Texans about emergency events.
Unfortunately, NG9-1-1 services are not available in all areas of the state, rural areas are disproportionately impacted, and these areas are forced to rely on obsolete 30 plus year-old emergency communications technology.
Senate Bill 8, as passed by the House on second reading, includes $150 million to upgrade the emergency communications in Texas to NG9-1-1. According to our recent Texas 2036 voter poll, 81% of Texans support federal funding to improve the state’s broadband and emergency communications infrastructure, increasing access to the internet in rural and underserved areas, and enhancing disaster response.