A much-anticipated buildout of a 700 MHz LTE network for public safety nationwide could be leveraged to bring broadband to rural areas that typically are not served by commercial operators because of economic realities, according to leading mobile wireless consultant Andrew Seybold.

Federal mandates to deploy the public-safety LTE network nationwide and to have broadband access be a primary goal for the FCC’s universal service fund are two factors that could increase the focus on delivering high-speed connectivity to sparsely populated areas, Seybold said.

“My model for rural America, which I have been putting forth for a very long time, is that [public safety and commercial broadband have] got to be built in concert with each other,” Seybold said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “There’s no reason why the universal service fund--or the millions of dollars sitting in the co-op non-profit power companies—couldn’t be used.”

Rural locations historically have been ignored by telecom carriers, because they do not have enough customers to support a profitable business model, Seybold said.

“AT&T, Verizon and Sprint look and say, ‘There are not enough customers per square mile for us to put in a quarter-million-dollar cell site,’ and they go away,” he said. “The rural telephone companies say, ‘We don’t have the right devices and roaming agreements, so we can’t do it.’ And the power companies are saying, ‘We want the smart grid, and we have customers that want broadband.’

“So, you’ve got all of these players, but nobody has taken the time to put all of these players in a room and say, ‘Under public safety’s license, how many of you want to play where?’ In my mind, it can be put together, if you bring the players together.”

Work on the public-safety broadband network is expected to begin in earnest in three weeks, when the board members for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) are supposed to be announced, according to a law passed in February.