Federal Communications Commission

A Compelling Vision for the Future of Public Safety Communications

March 17th, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Yesterday, the FCC released its National Broadband Plan, which lays out a comprehensive vision for the future of public safety communications. The Plan’s recommendations for advancing public safety and homeland security draw upon an extensive record and incorporate input from the public safety community, service providers, vendors and countless others. We truly appreciate the efforts of all who contributed to development of these recommendations, which we believe will revolutionize public safety communications and emergency response.

Our central recommendation is the creation of a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband wireless network through incentive-based partnerships between public safety agencies and the partner of their choice. The Plan asks Congress to commit a substantial amount of public funding—as much as $12-16 billion over 10 years—to support the build-out and operation of this network. It also recommends that the FCC create an Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) to ensure a baseline of operability and interoperability for the network nationwide.    Recommendations to enable roaming and priority access on commercial networks will also help ensure that public safety has access to a network when and where they need it.  Our recommendations will ensure that there truly is a nationwide network for the public safety community that is interoperable and provides them with the advanced communications capabilities they need.

The Plan also makes recommendations on how to improve cybersecurity. These include the development of a cybersecurity roadmap, in which the FCC—in coordination with the Executive Branch—will identify the nation’s most pressing cybersecurity threats and develop a plan for confronting them. Other recommendations focus on voluntary programs to promote the implementation of cybersecurity best practices and improve the FCC’s situational awareness and information base regarding cyber attacks and IP-based communications networks.  The Plan also addresses how to preserve the reliability and resiliency of our critical communications infrastructure and ensure that broadband networks can support prioritization of critical traffic.

Also included are proposals to facilitate the deployment of Next Generation 911, which will incorporate broadband technologies to improve the emergency response capabilities of public safety answering points (PSAPs), first responders, and other professionals.  The Plan recommends that Congress grant the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration authority to prepare a report to identify costs and recommend congressional appropriations, and that this report inform the development of a federal regulatory framework for NG911 deployment.

Finally, the Plan calls for the FCC to explore how to develop a multiple platform, redundant, next-generation alert system—one which uses broadband capabilities to better support underserved communities and reach a wider audience.  The Plan also asks the President to clarify agency roles on the implementation and maintenance of a next-generation alert and warning system. This would be an important step toward improved, timely and coordinated federal implementation of next-generation alerting systems.

My staff and I look forward to working with you as we implement the Plan’s recommendations for advancing public safety and homeland security through broadband. The Plan sets forth a compelling vision for the future of public safety communications, and we are already working with our public safety, federal and other partners to make these recommendations a reality.


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