The FCC’s top public safety official renewed his call for creation of a $16 billion national data network for public safety workers, reports Computer World. It would be partly financed by a monthly fee on all broadband users.
James Barnett Jr., chief of the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau suggested the public safety fee could be as low as 50 cents a month on every broadband user, although the FCC’s National Broadband Plan calls for a “minimal” fee without listing an amount.
Barnett said now is the time to implement the FCC proposal, which calls for building an interoperable public safety network in the so-called D block of the 700 MHz radio spectrum network. It would be shared with commercial interests.
“There’s broad recognition that we have one shot to solve the 9/11 problem, because if we miss the commercial network build-out [shared with public safety] then the public safety network price doubles,” Barnett said. “We want everybody to catch up with that recognition.”
Currently, two narrowband segments are divided into 960 channels, with each channel having a size of 6.25 kHz. They are at 769-775 MHz (Channels 1 – 960) for base operations and 799-805 MHz (Channels 961-1920) for mobile operations.
The FCC also established a single broadband nationwide Public Safety Broadband License (PSBL) for the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum (near Channel 63 and Channel 68 in the television band).
The public service broadband license (near Channel 63 and 68), and the commercial cellular license Upper D Block licensee (near Channel 62 and 67), would be combined to form a Public Safety/Private Partnership — a shared, nationwide interoperable network for both commercial and public safety users.
It creates a single, nation-wide, LTE broadband network. It would be available everywhere. Both citizens and public safety users benefit. Costs are shared.
“There’s never going to be a better funding environment for building this,” Barnett said. “It’s just going to get more expensive over time. Either we do this or we should stop complaining about needing interoperability.”
The FCC’s plan would be far cheaper than the alternatives, Barnett said. That’s because the commercial sector would share the D block, giving priority to emergency data needs in a crisis.
The savings would come from lower cost commercial data devices used by rescue teams, which could cost $400 to $500 apiece instead of up to $7,000 for typical public safety radios. In addition, as an LTE (Long term evolution) data network is built in the 700 MHz spectrum by the commercial sector, public safety groups could install equipment on the same towers at lower costs.
The Texas Wide-Area Radio Network is successfully using P-25 radios in 260 federal, state and local agencies and more than 600 departments, covering 13 counties in Texas. It doesn’t do broadband. As an aside, when Hurricane Ike closed in on Galveston, FEMA was sending $1.8 million – from Hurricane Rita, 3 years earlier.
Oregon didn’t have a base radio system that was modern enough to work for the state’s public-safety agencies, said Tualatin Fire Chief Jeff Johnson, who chairs Oregon’s State Interoperability Executive Council and is also the current president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Chief Johnson said basic operability was the problem.
David Stephenson writes about Web 2.0 homeland security strategies. He says DHS thinks of the Internet as a place for brochureware rather than a central repository for real-time information.
Narrowband voice networks are limiting. New York canceled their $2B statewide narrowband network. Shared infrastructure would deliver broadband everywhere.
That doesn’t mean that public safety organizations will buy into it. Keeping communications in-house may expand the funding requirements of public service agencies. That means a bigger budget.
First responders put their lives on the line and generally receive little thanks. But bureaucracies often serve and protect themselves, first. Universal broadband, ubiquitous coverage, smartphone apps, usability and interoperability should not be sacrificed for political gain. Then everyone loses.
Related Dailywireless articles include; Police & Fire: No Broadband for You, The 700MHz Network: Who Pays?, The National Broadband Plan, National Broadband Plan Previewed, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, AT&T/TerreStar Ready Satphone Service, TerreStar Phones Home, Motorola + SkyTerra Team for 700 MHz/Sat Radios, Alvarion, Open Range To Build 17 State Net, San Diego State: Wildfire GIS to Go, Emergency Mapping, Cascadia Peril, Commentary: Future of Public Safety Communications, New York Cancels Statewide Wireless Network, New York’s $2B Statewide Network Close to Canceling, M/A-COM to NY: We’re Good, NY Gives Tyco 45 days to Fix Network, Battle for Oregon’s State-wide Radio Net, Oregon’s $500 Million Statewide Wireless Network.