Though many local public safety network projects have been put in limbo while the federal government decides how best to proceed with the National Public Safety Broadband Network, Harris County, Texas, has bought itself some time. The county initially received interim permission to construct and operate a 14 site network in the 700 MHz band, but that authorization was set to expire on Sept. 2 though construction of the network was not yet finished. But on Aug. 31, Harris County received authority to continue operating in the 700 MHz band until March 1, 2013, and now has access to previously suspended funding.
New network legislation contained in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which was signed into law in February, complicates prior agreements with municipalities like Harris County that originally received permission to operate in the 700 MHz band in 2010. Charlotte, N.C., is in a similar situation, except the city did not attempt to extend its conditional operating license, which also expired on Sept. 2. Charlotte officials said further operation was too risky given the temporary nature of available funding.
In addition, more than 20 state and local projects are on hold indefinitely while the details for the national network are sorted out. The projects were approved by the FCC in 2010, allowing a number of jurisdictions to build 4G wireless networks in the 700 MHz spectrum set aside for public safety.
While the National Telecommunications and Information Administration had partially suspended funding for 700 MHz projects, Harris County received access to $2 million in previously suspended U.S. Department of Homeland Security Port Security Grant funding to continue construction. Harris County stated that it expects to finish integrating all 14 sites into its network “on or near” Sept. 15.