Earlier this week at the Commission meeting
, the Broadband Task Force outlined key gaps that need to be addressed before the U.S. can enjoy universal broadband. There are gaps in the public safety and homeland security sector that I think are important and worth highlighting. Specifically, we are still determining how best to ensure the creation of a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network. Today, there is no such network that meets the requirements of the public safety community.
More generally, there is a broadband connectivity gap for the public safety community, including the police, fire fighters, the emergency medical response community, and many 911 centers. This gap limits the potential for development of broadband applications that would vastly enhance the ability of public safety personnel to protect lives and property. For example, today most police and fire departments do not have access to broadband wireless communications for their first responders that would enable them to increase situational awareness when responding to an event. The only broadband wireless services available today are those offered by commercial providers, which lack the coverage and resiliency that public safety requires.
The Task Force presentation also highlighted that if broadband is going to further national priorities such as public safety, incentives that promote broadband deployment need to be aligned. For example, in order to ensure that public safety agencies across the country will have access to a broadband network that meets their requirements, we need to identify existing and potential incentives that will support deployment of the network in rural and remote areas that commercial broadband networks are unlikely to reach. These incentives can come in many forms, but are critical if this network is able to support emergency responders throughout the country. Other incentives must be provided to ensure that public safety broadband networks are able to have the sorts of resiliency and redundancy that public safety requires in order to ensure operation during emergencies.