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Digital Equity Proposal Panned

Colo. PUC Urged to Use Leftover $1.6M for NG-911, GIS

Colorado should fund next-generation 911 (NG-911) with $1.6 million remaining from a 2022-retired enforcement mechanism called the Colorado Performance Assurance Plan (CPAP), commenters said Friday at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. However, groups disagreed on which nonprofit should administer funds tagged for emergency services.

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The state commission must distribute remaining CPAP funds for competitively neutral telecom efforts that don’t directly benefit Lumen’s CenturyLink, the Colorado PUC said last month (see 2308170023). Reply comments are due Sept. 22 in docket 23M-0210T. Using the leftover state cash to support the NG-911 transition and to develop geographic information system data for areas with little or no GIS data “represent the highest and best use of the funds,” commented the Boulder Regional Emergency Telephone Service Authority (BRETSA).

"At least 21 to 22 rural counties have little or no internal GIS data, let alone public-safety grade GIS data,” said BRETSA: No other funding source has been identified to complete the state GIS dataset. Colorado shouldn’t use state 911 surcharge revenue because state law requires distribution based upon how many concurrent sessions each governing body’s public safety answering points maintains, it said. "Governing bodies with PSAPs serving the more populous counties naturally subscribe to larger numbers of concurrent sessions than rural counties with lower populations,” so they would receive larger distributions despite having more complete GIS data.

"Bringing all Colorado jurisdictions to an equivalent level of completeness of GIS data sets would likely exceed the available CPAP funds,” BRETSA noted. “However, the funds requested … would provide at least the PSAP boundary data for all PSAPs enabling NG9-1-1 geocentric routing of calls for all jurisdictions, and substantially narrow the gap between the most and least GIS-ready jurisdictions.”

Colorado should use "the bulk of the funds" for 911, commented the PUC’s 911 advisory task force. The state doesn't currently have a mechanism to facilitate statewide 911 projects but the nonprofit Colorado 911 Resource Center could "execute such projects and accept and expend funds for them,” the task force suggested. "It has been operating at limited half-time capacity for several years due to funding resources being depleted.” State bills to fund the center failed, added the group: $450,000 would fully fund the center for two years. "This would also enable the Center to facilitate the statewide Next Generation 9-1-1 GIS project if granted and assist governing bodies and PSAPs with implementing Text to 9-1-1, Language Translation Services, and Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD).”

Migrating to NG-911 depends on local authorities "providing complete high quality GIS data on an ongoing basis,” said the 911 task force: It recommends $500,000 for the center to contract with a 911 GIS services firm "to develop a definitive seamless PSAP boundaries dataset and do one-time projects to develop other required” NG-911 data for rural 911 authorities. The task force estimated the maximum total for next-generation GIS data projects would be about $1.1 million. BRETSA supported the task force’s proposal to fund the center.

Leftover CPAP cash should fund emergency phone services, the Colorado Council of Authorities agreed. But CCOA said it should be the nonprofit administering grants to local governments. The group noted that 21 of 58 governing bodies are CCOA members, with 15 that are rural. Membership wouldn't be required to apply for grants or receive awards, it said. Members "would be grant decisionmakers, with mandatory recusals for conflicts of interest." CCOA proposed that the grant process would start and conclude within six months of the date it receives funds, and that any unallocated funds would be distributed the same way 911 fee revenue is spread. That money could be used for any purpose, it said.

CCOA panned a proposal from the state's digital equity team seeking $600,000 for a Lifeline outreach program meant to increase enrollment. "Given the many resources that currently exist at the federal and the state levels, CCOA does not believe proposals to fund implementation of an education and outreach program to increase enrollment in the Lifeline program or any other federal subsidy program is the highest and best use of the limited funds.” Lifeline and the affordable connectivity program might soon cease to exist or be extensively modified, CCOA added. “In contrast, the infrastructure for the provision of emergency telephone service in Colorado will exist.”