FCC Proposes Nationwide Broadband Interoperable Public Safety Network

Network would run in the 700MHZ band.

by / December 22, 2006
The FCC Wednesday adopted a Ninth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes a national interoperable broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band which would have a centralized approach to maximize public safety access. In addition, the initiative seeks to promote the deployment of advanced broadband applications, related radio technologies, and modern, IP-based system architecture.

"I believe this proposal could offer many public safety benefits," said Chairman Kevin J Martin. "Many national and local public safety organizations have expressed support for a public-private partnership approach for a single, national licensee to achieve an interoperable public safety broadband network in the context of other public safety proposals."

The proposals contained in this item are designed to meet the following public safety objectives:
  1. opportunities for broadband, national, interoperable use of 700 MHz spectrum;
  2. new sources of funding for the build-out and operation of the national public safety network;
  3. economies of scale and scope in production and competition in supply to maximize cost effectiveness;
  4. efficient spectrum use;
  5. network robustness and survivability; and
  6. flexible, modern IP-based wireless system architecture.
"Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to hear local public safety personnel recount their experiences on the ground during the tragic events of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," said Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate. "Their eyewitness accounts underscore how important it is that our nation's first responders have access to reliable and redundant communications in the event of an emergency, and how much remains to be done before those tools are available ... Therefore, it is critical that we take steps to improve public safety interoperability for all types of disasters -- whether terrorist, natural or even a health pandemic."

Specifically, this item proposes that the Commission
  1. allocate 12 megahertz of the 700 MHz public safety spectrum from wideband to broadband use;
  2. assign this spectrum nationwide to a single national public safety broadband licensee;
  3. permit the national public safety broadband licensee also to operate on a secondary basis on the narrowband public safety spectrum in the 700 MHz band;
  4. permit the licensee to use its assigned spectrum to provide public safety entities with voluntary access to a public safety broadband service on a fee-for-service basis;
  5. permit the licensee to provide unconditionally preemptible access to its assigned spectrum to commercial service providers on a secondary basis, through leases or in the form of public/private partnerships; (6) facilitate the shared use of CMRS infrastructure for the efficient provision of public safety broadband service; and
  6. establish performance requirements for interoperability, build-out, preemption of commercial access, and system robustness.
Commissioner Jonathan S. Adekstein cautioned against hasty decision making on this issue. "While I wholeheartedly support the launch of this proceeding today, I do want to counsel for taking a cautious and deliberate approach to an ultimate resolution. It is important to acknowledge that our proposal today talks in very broad strokes and looks to commenters to fill in many important details and specifics."

This Ninth Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment generally on the above proposals or alternatives, as well as on spectrum leasing and Section 337 issues.

Gina M. Scott Writer