Last year, the Federal Communications Commission developed and released the National Broadband Plan (the Plan) to ensure that every American has “access to broadband capability.” A section of the Plan included a detailed strategy for achieving maximum use of broadband to advance public safety communications. One year later, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (Bureau) has been working hard promoting public safety wireless broadband communications, encouraging the development and deployment of Next Generation 911 networks, and protecting and preserving critical broadband infrastructure. March 17, 2011 marks the one year anniversary of the Plan and we wanted to share with you the specifics of what we have accomplished and how we plan to further enhance broadband communications for public safety.
Promoting Public Safety Wireless Broadband Communication
One of the Bureau’s primary responsibilities is establishing the technical and operational framework for an interoperable public safety broadband wireless network. We want police officers, fire fighters, and emergency medical personnel to be there when you need them the most and to have access to state-of-the art digital broadband communications. While first responders have traditionally been limited to using the traditional “walkie talkie” radios that you see them with now, we want them to have tablets and smartphones that will provide them with instant access to information and enable them to respond more effectively to emergencies —anywhere, anytime. But in order for them to do that, we need to create the technical guidance so that the broadband technology they need will be available. .
Last April, the Commission created the Emergency Response Interoperability Center, which is charged with drafting the technical and operational framework for public safety broadband wireless networks. The Commission took an important step towards implementation of such a framework in January, when it adopted an Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on public safety broadband network interoperability. In this item, we set the initial requirements of the network and are seeking public comment on additional critical issues.
Developing and Deploying Next Generation 911 Networks
Today, approximately 70% of all 911 calls are made from mobile hand-held devices. However, most 911 call centers are not currently equipped to receive text messages, e-mail, video, or photos—dominant modes of communications for many mobile users.
To address this problem, we have initiated a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to explore how to bring Next Generation 911 services to consumers and first responders that will enable the public to obtain emergency assistance by means of advanced communications technologies beyond traditional voice-centric devices. Although location accuracy requirements were not part of the Plan, we have also adopted an Order that requires wireless carriers to provide data on each 911 call made on mobile devices which will improve the ability of public safety personnel to assess the accuracy of location information to further support public safety. This will help emergency response personnel reach you sooner in the event of an emergency.
Protecting and Preserving Broadband Communications
You should be able to make and receive calls at home or on your wireless device in the event of an emergency. That is why we are actively working with Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to preserve broadband communications during emergencies, including wireless mobile infrastructure and fixed satellite service.
We have begun an inquiry proceeding, on network resiliency and preparedness that would identify the problems and survivability of commercial broadband networks. While this NOI focuses on commercial broadband communications, we are also addressing the critical sectors of our nation, the non-commercial broadband networks that are utilized by public safety, utilities, state and federal entities which all work to help you.