FCC Pushes Public Safety Broadband Network

The FCC and the U.S. Senate acted this week to move forward in the effort to develop a nationwide public safety broadband network.

On Tuesday Senator John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-WV), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, re-introduced S. 28, the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act.

The bill would allocate the D Block in the 700 MHz band of spectrum to public safety, and would also allocate $11 billion for the construction, maintenance, and operation of the new network.

Also on Tuesday, the FCC adopted a requirement that the network utilize Long Term Evolution (LTE) as the communications infrastructure standard.

The FCC usually doesn't choose technology standards, but made an exception in this case because interoperability is key to the network, according to an InformationWeek news report.

"The decision should also ensure that the independent wireless networks that various safety agencies, impatient with FCC foot-dragging, have started to develop will be able to communicate once they're up and running," the report added.

The FCC also announced that Chief Jeff Johnson, IAFC President 2009-2010, and Deputy Chief Eddie Reyes, City of Alexandria (Va.) Police Department, would chair the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) of the Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC).

The ERIC is charged with the development of a technical and operational framework for interoperability in public safety wireless broadband communications.

"I am delighted to be asked to chair the PSAC and look forward to working with Chief Reyes and the other PSAC members to develop a nationwide broadband system that will utilize 21st century technology to protect the public," Johnson said in a prepared statement.

The National Emergency Number Association also announced its support for the FCC's latest moves.

"NENA is particularly pleased that the Commission recognizes the importance of ensuring that public safety broadband networks interoperate with Next Generation 9-1-1," the association announced. "As Next Generation 9-1-1 plays a critical role in receiving and sending voice, video, and data, it is essential that public safety broadband networks be capable of delivering such information to police, fire and EMS units as they respond to emergencies."

The FCC is currently seeking public comment on issues including the architectural vision of the network; interconnectivity between networks; network robustness, resiliency and security; and roaming and priority access among public safety broadband networks.