FCC looks for feedback on nationwide public safety broadband network

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comment on several proposals regarding the deployment of a nationwide public safety broadband network in the 700 MHz band, according to an FCC announcement.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Public Safety Spectrum Act) established a new entity, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), with responsibility for ensuring the establishment of a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network. Public safety officials believe a public safety broadband network would support important data transmission during emergencies, provide first responders with information not currently available (such as vital signs of critically injured people), and foster greater interoperability.

FirstNet is charged with overseeing the construction and operation of the public safety broadband network as licensee of both the existing public safety broadband spectrum (763-769/793-799 MHz) and the spectrally adjacent D Block spectrum (758-763/788-793 MHz). In its notice, the FCC said it is considering the adoption of initial rules to protect against harmful radio frequency interference in the spectrum designated for public safety services, as well as other requirements related to FirstNet's license and to facilitating the transition directed under the Public Safety Spectrum Act.

"Our proposals in this Notice are intended to provide a solid foundation for FirstNet's operations, taking into account FirstNet's need for flexibility in carrying out its statutory duties under the Public Safety Spectrum Act to establish a nationwide public safety broadband network," states the FCC.

The Public Safety Spectrum Act directed the FCC to reallocate the D Block for public safety services, to license the D Block and the existing public safety broadband spectrum to FirstNet and to take other actions necessary to "facilitate the transition" of such existing spectrum to FirstNet.

Specifically, in its notice, the FCC is seeking comment in three areas: technical service rules for the new public safety broadband network to be established pursuant to the Public Safety Spectrum Act; the exercise of the Commission's statutory responsibilities as they relate to oversight of FirstNet's operations; and how to address different classes of incumbents now occupying portions of the spectrum licensed to FirstNet.

The FCC has asked commenters to address both the costs and benefits of any proposal or alternative, and provide specific data and information, such as actual or estimated dollar amounts for each specific cost or benefit addressed. The agency is also seeking comment on possible alternatives to its proposals that may reflect greater benefits, lower costs, or both.

The comment date for the notice is May 24, and the reply comment date is June 10.

In related news, earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that states have made significant progress in implementing wireless Enhanced 911 (E911), the capability of 911 call takers to automatically receive location information from callers using mobile phones. According to the GAO, nearly 98 percent of 911 call centers are capable of receiving location information under E911. This represents a significant improvement since 2003 when implementation was only 65 percent.

To learn more:
- read the FCC announcement

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