FCC officials last week announced the establishment of the Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC), which is designed to lead the development of technical and operational frameworks to ensure that 700 MHz public-safety broadband networks are interoperable.

With ERIC providing these frameworks — not standards, because ERIC is not a standards body — the FCC will be in a position to rule on 19 pending waiver request from public-safety entities wanting to begin deployments of 700 MHz broadband networks, said Jamie Barnett, chief of the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau (PSHSB).

“We have 19 waiver applicants that tell us they are ready to move out right now,” he said. “Some of those are large cities, so we think this is the time to catch [the technological LTE wave], so we definitely want to move fast. That is why we stood up the Emergency Response Interoperability Center, and that’s why we’re moving forward quickly on the development of the technical requirements.”

Barnett repeatedly has said that acting on the waiver requests is a priority for the FCC, but an interoperability framework is needed to ensure that early movers build networks that can be integrated into the nationwide public-safety network envisioned by the FCC, so large network investments are not made in systems that do not interoperate with the rest of the country.

With the establishment of ERIC, “I think you’re going to see us take action on those waiver petitions very quickly,” Barnett said. Previously, Barnett said has said he hopes the FCC can act on the waivers by early summer.

For the most part, ERIC will be staffed by FCC personnel that are familiar with the 700 MHz broadband interoperability effort. Initially, Jennifer Manner — deputy chief in the PSHSB — will serve as ERIC’s interim director.

Barnett said the FCC plans to move quickly to hire a permanent ERIC director with public-safety experience. In addition, the agency will work to establish a public-safety advisory board that is expected to play a key advisory role to ERIC. The center also is expected to work closely with other related federal entities, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).