FCC starts public-safety broadband network efforts
FCC officials moved quickly on its pursuit of a 700 MHz broadband wireless network for public safety this week by hosting a technical panel, launching a new Web site and initiating a proceeding to identify first-responder requirements for the network just days after the release of the national broadband plan.
During the technical panel yesterday, representatives from public safety, the FCC and the vendor community discussed the framework for the proposed network, including cost-model assumptions, potential public/private partnership structures, funding breakdowns, and LTE’s capability to support roaming and quality-of-service levels.
Jamie Barnett, chief of the FCC’s public safety and homeland-security bureau, asked all affected parties to unite in the effort to pursue critical federal funding to support the network — the FCC plan calls for Congress to appropriate $12 billion to $16 billion for the network’s deployment and 10 years of operations. The most notable support came from President Barack Obama, who cited the public-safety network as a key initiative in a four-paragraph statement, he said.
“It’s good to have the president and commander in chief recognize that and say that he supports it,” Barnett said during the technical panel, which was webcast. “It gives me great hope for moving forward.”
Barnett also expressed encouragement that “areas of growing agreement” are emerging among key players in the broadband network proposal.
Indeed, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) expressed approval for most aspects of the FCC proposal, particularly the notion of sharing infrastructure with commercial operators and the need for federal funding, said Robert LeGrande, a consultant and former CTO for Washington, D.C.
While APCO still has some reservations regarding details involved in issues such as priority access for public-safety users roaming onto commercial networks, LeGrande said he believes those matters can be resolved. The one area of true disagreement for APCO in the proposal was the FCC decision not to recommend that Congress reallocate the 10 MHz D Block to public safety, leaving public safety with only 10 MHz of broadband spectrum — currently licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) — on which to build a dedicated network for first responders, he said.
While vendor panelists noted the ability for public safety to roam onto commercial networks in the 700 MHz band with priority access, LeGrande noted that such an untried approach is not as comforting to the first-responder community as being able to leverage the D Block in a dedicated network using 20 MHz of spectrum.
“Let’s make a quick agreement: A world where public safety has 20 MHz of spectrum is going to be better than a world where public safety has 10 MHz of spectrum,” said LeGrande, who noted that public safety will need to make its case to Congress if it wants the D Block to be reallocated.
In an attempt to get more input on public safety’s requirement for the proposed broadband network, the FCC yesterday issued a public notice seeking comments on the matter, including whether recommendation made last fall by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) broadband task force and the PSST should serve as a basis. The results of the proceeding could allow the FCC to act on waiver requests from cities such as New York and Seattle, which want to build out their own broadband networks on the PSST spectrum.
Comments in the proceeding are due on April 6, while reply comments must be submitted by April 16.
Separately, the FCC public safety and homeland security bureau today launched a new “Broadband and Public Safety and Homeland Security” Web site that is designed to provide information about the status of the FCC’s efforts to implement the public-safety initiatives in the national broadband plan. The Web site can be accessed at www.fcc.gov/pshs/broadband.html.