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Momentum Building for FCC Plan to Deliver Cutting-Edge Public Safety Network

June 24th, 2010 by Jennifer Manner - Deputy Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Momentum is building for the FCC’s plan – outlined in the National Broadband Plan – to deliver the nationwide, cutting-edge, wireless public safety network America’s first responders need. Just since May, we have granted 21 waiver petitions for early builds of this critical network in a range of areas from New York State to Pembroke Pines, Florida to Seattle, Washington. These early network deployments will help us identify issues and sound, practical solutions in our efforts to deploy a public safety broadband network across the United States, covering 99 percent of the population. 

What has been most interesting and encouraging is the support we’ve been receiving from the public safety and technical communities, industry, and opinion leaders for moving forward with our plan.  For example, as we approach the ninth anniversary of 9/11, it is important to note that the Chair, Thomas Kean and Vice Chair, Lee Hamilton of the 9/11 Commission have endorsed the FCC’s plan:

“The 9/11 Commission on which we served concluded that the absence of interoperable communications capabilities among public safety organizations at the local, state, and federal levels was a problem of the highest order.  Unfortunately, we have made little progress in solving this problem until now.  The Commission's proposed plan offers a clear roadmap for finally reaching that goal.  It will provide public safety users throughout the country with access to wireless broadband capabilities that will enable them to communicate effectively across departments and jurisdictions, while encouraging public safety to partner with commercial providers and leverage the investments they already have made.  It also calls for the public funding that is needed to help build, operate, and maintain the public safety network.”

To provide the technical underpinnings of our plan, we recently released a white paper on the capacity and performance needs of a 21st century public safety network.  This paper has been endorsed by four former FCC chief technologists and a large coalition representing well-over 200 companies, tens of thousands of jobs, and billions of  dollars of investment in our mobile broadband future.

Coalition for 4G in America (including Sprint Nextel Corporation, T-Mobile USA, Inc., the Rural Telecommunications Group, Inc., the Rural Cellular Association, Xanadoo Company, Access Spectrum, LLC, and Clearwire, Corp.):  “The Coalition for 4G in America applauds the Commission for engaging in a comprehensive analysis of the capacity needs for users of the interoperable public safety broadband networks recommended in the National Broadband Plan. The Coalition supports the Commission’s findings and endorses the assumptions that lead the Commission to conclude in the Capacity Study that 10 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band can meet the day-to-day capacity needs of the public safety community.

In light of the 700 MHz band’s superior radio frequency propagation characteristics, the allocation of 10 MHz in that band will provide public safety with ample coverage and capacity when used in cellular network architecture. Additionally, the near uniform adoption of spectrally efficient broadband technology across the entire 700 MHz band could allow public safety users to roam with priority access on adjacent commercial networks during surges in bandwidth demand. As explained below, the Coalition agrees with the central findings of the Capacity Study that site density, spectrally efficient technology, and roaming with priority access are critical inputs in maximizing the capacity of interoperable public safety broadband networks…”

Dale Hatfield, Former FCC Chief OET and adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado:  “Fortunately, in my opinion, legislation along the lines that have been set forth in the staff draft coupled with recommendations and analyses presented in the National Broadband Plan….provide the necessary policy direction, funding resources, and analytical framework to ensure the successful deployment of such a nationwide network.  I am in general agreement with the analysis contained in [the Capacity White Paper]…in terms of priority access and roaming…[this] is consistent with my strongly held belief that better spectrum management requires more dynamic sharing of the increasingly scarce resource.” 

Stagg Newman, Former FCC Chief Technologist:  “The Capacity White Paper provides the fact driven analysis that can drive cost effective policy decisions.  This paper clearly demonstrates the value of the incentivized partnership as the wise use of taxpayer dollars…
 
1)  10 MHz of broadband dedicated spectrum is certainly enough spectrum to meet public safety foreseeable day-to-day demand; and
2)  PS broadband applications, particularly incident video, requires a high density cellular network because of distance limitations.

The cost effective approach to meeting both needs above is to light-up public safety's broadband spectrum while sharing cell site and fiber infrastructure.  The country cannot afford to build a new totally stand-alone dense cellular public safety network to support only 1 Million or so users when each national cellular player supports many 10s of millions of users on its infrastructure.  The country can afford to give and should give public safety their own "lane" on the wireless broadband superhighway, i.e. dedicated spectrum on a shared broadband infrastructure.  Now is the time for Congress and the FCC to make some tough decisions and implement the FCC's recommendations for the national public safety broadband infrastructure.  In particular now is the time to appropriate the money needed to build a broadband public safety infrastructure in conjunction with the build-out of the commercial 4G Infrastructure in the U.S.”

Dave Farber, Former FCC Chief Technologist:  said the FCC deserves credit for a plan that offers a solution beyond throwing more spectrum at a problem. "They looked at the demand, looked at what was available and I thought came up with a very intelligent approach," Farber said. Some public safety groups are "rooted in the old way of thinking," he added. "There will always be protests against anything you do."

This week, we appointed twenty state and local public safety officials to our technical advisory committee, formed to advise the FCC’s Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC). This center will help ensure that public safety can communicate with one another across agencies and departments, and geographies.  This is all in addition to seeking public comment on interoperability rules and opening the filing window for the waiver recipients to make interoperability showings.  We are also seeking public comment on the proposed budget of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust, the public safety broadband licensee to administer the leases for the early builders of the public safety broadband network. 

As we continue to progress with a creating a regulatory regime to enable the deployment of the public safety broadband network, we have recently received the following support:

Chuck Canterbury, President, National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP):  “The FOP supports the National Broadband Plan…and its strategic outline for the creation of a fully interoperable national network for public safety….The FOP agrees with the most recent conclusions of the FCC’s white paper, entitled, The Public Safety Nationwide Interoperable Broadband Network, A New Model for Capacity, Performance and Cost, which shows that the current spectrum dedicated to the Public Safety Broadband Licensee (PSBL) will provide the capacity and performance necessary for day-to-day communications and serious emergency situations…..The two largest public safety organizations, the FOP and our colleagues at the International Association of Fire Fighters…do not believe that the FCC’s vision or the overarching goal of establishing a national public safety broadband network depends on the D block being added to [the public safety license]…..The existing spectrum, along with…enhanced roaming on the commercial networks…would allow public safety agencies to operate across jurisdictional boundaries during emergencies in which greater capacities were needed….Capacity is not the only issue—an honest assessment of the needs and the cost to use that capacity effectively are equally important….”

Jonathan Moore, International Association of Fire Fighters:  “The public safety broadband network…outlined in the National Broadband Plan, will help assure that public safety has adequate capacity while providing first responders with resilient, hardened and affordable coverage…we believe that the ten megahertz currently allocated to public safety, combined with roaming and priority access on the D block and other commercial networks, will provide public safety with adequate capacity for everyday use as well as large-scale emergencies.  Furthermore, because such partnerships will be required to meet the….requirements established by ERIC, which itself will be advised by public safety, we have confidence that they will meet public safety’s mission critical standards….Leveraging commercial technologies…is expected to reduce the cost of devices to public safety….Lastly, by auctioning the D block, the FCC plan provides public safety with a true competitive choice among commercial partners, as well as the more competitive network rates which would follow.”

Brian Fontes, National Emergency Numbering Association:  “In NENA’s opinion, having access to a nationwide public safety broadband network with significant funding for construction, maintenance and operation of the network, with a guarantee of roaming and priority access, is a workable approach.”

Steve Berry, President and CEO, Rural Cellular Association:  “The FCC got it right!  Spectrum alone will not satisfy public safety’s needs - a new broadband technology with interoperable devices and funds to build the network is the best prescription.  I am pleased with the FCC’s report, and we can only hope that public safety takes advantage of this unique opportunity.”

Joe Hanley, Technology Planning and Service, Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. (US Cellular):   “Support the….proposal to auction the D block and use the proceeds to fund a nationwide, interoperable broadband network.  A commercial auction of reasonably-sized D Block licenses followed by negotiated public/private partnerships will help meet both public safety and commercial broadband goals….A commercial auction of the D Block with an obligation for 700 MHz licenses to provide roaming access to public safety along with the option of public/private partnerships is the best path forward….commercial use [of the D block] may be essential to driving the necessary volumes of handsets and other devices need by public safety.  And as commercial use of this spectrum rises, the prices for public safety handsets should continue to decline…U.S. Cellular strongly supports the FCC’s plan for a commercial auction of D Block licenses followed ideally by shared public safety/commercial network partnerships.  With the PSBL spectrum, adequate funding and opportunities to negotiate with multiple commercial operators in a region, public safety entities will be in a strong position to develop favorable arrangements with D block and other 800 MHz licensees or develop public safety-only networks if they so choose.”

Coleman Bazelon, Brattle Group:  “The D block should be auctioned for unrestricted commercial uses and public safety’s needs should be directly funded.”

We are at a critical juncture.  We must move forward now with the deployment of the nationwide interoperable public safety network in order to realize this vision. In the end, under the FCC plan, public safety will have access to the latest wireless technologies, including handsets at commercially competitive prices that can be used across the 700 MHz band.  This will be particularly critical on those really bad days when first responders need additional capacity to respond to emergencies beyond the spectrum dedicated for their use. No longer will public safety be left behind the times or stuck on a technological island with outdated, expensive equipment they cannot afford to upgrade or replace.  Public safety will no longer be a bystander in the broadband revolution; they will have the opportunity to be part of future technological innovations, keeping pace with the latest broadband technologies for years to come.

3 Responses to “Momentum Building for FCC Plan to Deliver Cutting-Edge Public Safety Network”

  1. Guest says:

    Dear Ms. Manner:

    I refer you to the Public Safety Alliance website www.psafirst.org as proof of the extent of the overwhelming and growing opposition to the FCC's recommendation to rush and auction the D block and totally abandon public-private partnerships that the FCC previously recommended just a few short years ago in pairing the D block with the 10 MHz held by the PSBL for public safety to create the now Barnettian-declared "spiritual and mystical bond" that public safety has to the D Block. This alchemist heresy seems to extend to Governors, Mayors, State Legislators, Public Works, Emergency Nurses, Physicians, state and local technologists and CIOs, even 40-plus Members of Congress to date, and all manner of otherwise experienced, field-tested professionals, 40-some organizations and counting! Please, wake up and look out your window. There's a whole real world outside.

  2. Guest says:

    I guess there was some reworking of this article after it was initially posted. You really must do all your editing BEFORE posting. <smile>

  3. Guest says:

    This is a sad attempt to save your face. You are pathetic (please enter this in your record). This plan is almost as stupid as the Frontline plan (please enter this in your record, too). Perhaps you could let us know how many real networks any of the "engineers" listed above have actually deployed or managed (and you can add your own j. peha to the list).

    And yes, I hope that one day the FCC folks who came up with this plan - which basically says that public safety will use commercial capacity during crises - will one day be held accountable.

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