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Wireless Broadband Network Takes Form for Public Safety Community

March 4th, 2010 by George Krebs

Soon the FCC will roll out the Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC). A first-of-its-kind center located within the Commission, ERIC will coordinate communication among the public safety community. As Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett wrote ERIC will be based on a wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. This will include technical requirements for common standards across the field, priority access for public safety users, and choices for how they operate their broadband network. Panelists from the FCC, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Institute of Science and Technology spoke Tuesday about what form this should center should take.

The need for an interoperability network is clear, they noted. Today first responders and public safety personnel are using a wide variety of devices in the course of their time sensitive work. This hodgepodge of systems contains a host of issues that complicates the vital work being performed. Critical communication coordination failures on September 11th and during Hurricane Katrina made the necessity of such interoperability painfully evident.

Jeff Goldthorp, Chief of the Communications Systems Analysis Division at the FCC, spoke to the possibility of interoperability and the urgency of roaming:
 
Rich benefits come with deployment of new commercial wireless technology. Is it possible to create a network of networks? Absolutely. We need to harmonize the actions of public safety entities…
 
We need for first responders to be able to move between jurisdictions [roaming] in a way they’re not able to today.
 
Mr. Barnett said ERIC must be launched to coincide with the National Broadband Plan. When the Broadband Plan is rolled out, industry will be jumping on board.
 
These networks are taking off. These people are ready to build. We need to get public safety right up there with the industry. When the truck rolls out to put up a tower, it should also be putting up a tower for public safety. If we fall behind and the truck has to roll out a second time, it will be much more expensive.
 
The public safety and homeland security recommendations in the Broadband Plan are already getting an outpouring of support. As we move quickly toward implementing these recommendations we must get it right, Mr. Barnett urged. “We’ve got to get going. We get one at bat. One swing.”
 

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