Broadband Council Gets Next-Gen 911, Digital Equity Updates

Meeting on Zoom, the California Broadband Council heard about new contracts in the deployment of the state's Next Generation 911 system, progress made closing the digital divide and concerns about digital equity.

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Work on California’s Next Generation 911 system is proceeding well, but has fallen slightly behind schedule, members of a state broadband group learned recently.

The deployment, which is currently centered in Internet protocol (IP) circuit and Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) deployment, finalizing core service operations and test integrations, nevertheless took significant steps in July, an official from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) told the California Broadband Council on Wednesday. Among the takeaways:

• With assistance from the California Department of Technology, CalOES awarded contracts July 10 to several telecommunications companies for assorted services. The office is working with AT&T on “reselling Rapid Deploy Cloud, Motorola Cloud, Viper Cloud and Viper Data Center,” Mitch Medigovich, CalOES deputy director of logistics management,  indicated via Zoom and PowerPoint. CalOES also retained Atos for Open Scope Cloud; Carbyne Cloud; Carousel, reselling Motorola Cloud; Comtech for Solacom Data Center; Frontier, reselling Motorola Cloud; Intrada for Viper Data Center and Viper Cloud; Motorola Cloud itself; NGA911 reselling WestTel Cloud and Emergent Cloud; RapidDeploy Cloud; and Zetron Data Center. Testing is slated to begin this fall and installations as early as next spring, “contingent on NG911 testing and transition.”

• Damaged equipment and the COVID-19 pandemic have made the project slip “about four to six weeks,” Medigovich told the Council. Project team site surveys are done, he said, circuits have already been ordered and IP circuit deployment is well underway. Design has been done for the network operation centers and most are up and running, and officials are “working aggressively on the core services and test integration.”
“We have had slips from COVID on this project due to some of our Public Safety Answering Points not wanting us to come in,” Medigovich said. “We’ve also had some damaged … equipment that’s coming in and disruptions in the supply chain. None of them insurmountable but it is contributing to various small delays.” He called the slip “not drastic” for a project of this size.

• As part of its pandemic response, the California Department of General Services issued a statewide policy in April encouraging agencies to donate surplus computer equipment “to foster youth who are attending state colleges or universities,” Evan Speer, DGS chief, Office of Fleet and Asset Management, told the Council. Since February, donations have included 4,300 computers and laptops, 900 monitors, and 38 tablets. DGS has streamlined the application process to receive donations, has done additional outreach to state agencies and is in the final testing stages before standing up a website to formalize this program, with a resources section that will offer information on donations for both sides.
Brent Jamison, DGS deputy director, Interagency Support Division, praised the effort’s leaders for the work to “pivot on the quick” on policy implementation, “particularly for the Computers for Foster Youth program.”

• Digital equity is on the mind of education and Legislative officials alike, Council member Sarah Smith, the designated representative of state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, and Jerry Winkler, director of the California Department of Education (CDE), said. One concern, Smith said, is that as Internet service providers’ agreements to retain customers despite nonpayment – put in place early in the pandemic – expire this summer, large numbers of consumers will lose service, resulting in “even more potential for economic hard to these people.” Winkler said the Closing the Digital Divide Task Force and its co-chair, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, have been “communicating directly with the cable companies and trying to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to get broadband out there.” The California Department of Education has “contacted personally, he added, more than 1,000 school districts to ensure they have the devices they need and to understand what they lack. Officials are focused on digital equity in three areas – devices, connectivity, and technical support and training.

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.