FCC Workshop Targets Public-Safety Broadband
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 | Comments




Photo courtesy San Diego PD

By Sandra Wendelken, Editor


The FCC held a workshop Tuesday addressing public-safety broadband issues as part of its series of workshops to help the commission develop a national broadband plan. The workshop included two panels with public-safety professionals, academics, federal officials and other broadband experts.

The FCC is required by Congress to develop a national broadband plan by Feb. 17, 2010.

Public-safety officials on the panels highlighted the importance of broadband and suggested ideas for deployment and applications. Charles Brennan, deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Office of Public Safety Radio Service, said broadband should be concentrated on vehicle access and hot spots for situational needs rather than ubiquitous availability. He also said grant monies should be focused on the state level and that data interoperability standards are needed.

Pete Eggimann, director of 9-1-1 services for the Minneapolis Metropolitan Emergency Services Board, discussed the importance of broadband for next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) and hosted NG 9-1-1 applications that dispatchers could access across an entire metro area. Ralph Haller, chairman of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC), outlined operational, technical and governance requirements being discussed by NPSTC’s broadband task force.

Harlin McEwen, chairman of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), said the importance of a private broadband public-safety network for public-safety responsibilities such as to respond, coordinate and recover, along with detect and notify. He said commercial services are often unavailable during disasters, and they don’t include security, priority access and other features necessary.

Bill Schrier, chief technology officer (CTO) for Seattle, said a nationwide fiber-optic network with connectivity to every home and business is essential. That network could then be used as a backbone to build widespread private public-safety wireless broadband networks.

The workshop followed numerous sessions at the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International annual conference last week addressing the issue of broadband for public safety. Several FCC officials were at the conference, asking for input from practitioners on the topic. “We’re supporting you in a sacred duty,” said Jamie Barnett, chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB). “We depend on you individually for input.”

The FCC specifically is seeking comment on the state and local jurisdictions that have filed waiver requests of the FCC’s 700 MHz public-safety broadband rules. Commission officials said they don’t want to hear only from the various public-safety associations; they need user experiences and facts from public-safety licensees. Comments on the 700 MHz broadband waiver requests are due Oct. 16.

Although the deadline for comments on the national broadband plan has passed, ex-parte comments are still possible, along with comments e-mailed through www.broadband.gov.

Meanwhile, the NPSTC broadband task force is wrapping up its recommendations for a system-of-systems approach to public-safety broadband. Those final recommendations will be voted on during the September NPSTC meeting. Required applications currently include:

    • Internet access

    • Connectivity between networks

    • Virtual private network (VPN) access to home and other networks

    • Short and multimedia messaging service (SMS/MMS)

    • Location-based information

    • LMR gateways

    • Access to mutual aid and incident command system (ICS)

    • Dynamic backbone for connectivity and roaming


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