Federal Communications Commission

Author Archive

One Year Later

March 16th, 2011 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission developed and released the National Broadband Plan (the Plan) to ensure that every American has “access to broadband capability.” A section of the Plan included a detailed strategy for achieving maximum use of broadband to advance public safety communications. One year later, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (Bureau) has been working hard promoting public safety wireless broadband communications, encouraging the development and deployment of Next Generation 911 networks, and protecting and preserving critical broadband infrastructure. March 17, 2011 marks the one year anniversary of the Plan and we wanted to share with you the specifics of what we have accomplished and how we plan to further enhance broadband communications for public safety.

Promoting Public Safety Wireless Broadband Communication
One of the Bureau’s primary responsibilities is establishing the technical and operational framework for an interoperable public safety broadband wireless network. We want police officers, fire fighters, and emergency medical personnel to be there when you need them the most and to have access to state-of-the art digital broadband communications.  While first responders have traditionally been limited to using the traditional “walkie talkie” radios that you see them with now, we want them to have tablets and smartphones that will provide them with  instant access to information and enable them to respond more effectively to emergencies —anywhere, anytime. But in order for them to do that, we need to create the technical guidance so that the broadband technology they need will be available.  .

Last April, the Commission created the Emergency Response Interoperability Center, which is charged with drafting the technical and operational framework for public safety broadband wireless networks. The Commission took an important step towards implementation of such a framework in January, when it adopted an Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on public safety broadband network interoperability. In this item, we set the initial requirements of the network and are seeking public comment on additional critical issues. 

Developing and Deploying Next Generation 911 Networks
Today, approximately 70% of all 911 calls are made from mobile hand-held devices. However, most 911 call centers are not currently equipped to receive text messages, e-mail, video, or photos—dominant modes of communications for many mobile users.

To address this problem, we have initiated a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to explore how to bring Next Generation 911 services to consumers and first responders that will enable the public to obtain emergency assistance by means of advanced communications technologies beyond traditional voice-centric devices. Although location accuracy requirements were not part of the Plan, we have also adopted an Order that requires wireless carriers to provide data on each 911 call made on mobile devices which will improve the ability of public safety personnel to assess the accuracy of location information to further support public safety. This will help emergency response personnel reach you sooner in the event of an emergency.

Protecting and Preserving Broadband Communications
You should be able to make and receive calls at home or on your wireless device in the event of an emergency. That is why we are actively working with Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to preserve broadband communications during emergencies, including wireless mobile infrastructure and fixed satellite service.

We have begun an inquiry proceeding, on network resiliency and preparedness that would identify the problems and survivability of commercial broadband networks. While this NOI focuses on commercial broadband communications, we are also addressing the critical sectors of our nation, the non-commercial broadband networks that are utilized by public safety, utilities, state and federal entities which all work to help you.

Establishing Interoperability

January 25th, 2011 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

The quest for true interoperability dominates our daily work within the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.  Interoperability is elusive and exacting.  It must be pursued as a full-time job with full knowledge of the factors that have defeated interoperability in the past.  As it has before, today the Commission took significant and positive steps to ensure the interoperability for the future of public safety communications.

The National Broadband Plan, submitted to Congress in March, 2010, set forth a comprehensive framework for creating a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network. As part of this framework, the Plan recommended the creation of an Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) to ensure nationwide interoperability. In April the Commission established ERIC within the Public and Homeland Security Bureau, where it is already playing an invaluable role assisting the Bureau as it develops rules and requirements for public safety broadband networks. In December, the Bureau adopted ERIC’s recommendations for an initial set of technical requirements to govern the early network deployments of public safety broadband waiver recipients. In developing its recommendations, ERIC has worked closely with the Commission’s federal partners and with the public safety community—including the members of the ERIC Technical Advisory Committee. We thank these individuals and agencies for their tireless efforts.  

With today’s item, the Commission delivers further on the Plan’s vision by adopting an order and further notice of proposed rulemaking on public safety broadband network interoperability. As the Plan recognizes, broadband technologies “will give first responders new tools to save American lives.” However, the transformative potential of broadband will remain unfulfilled if first responders are unable to communicate effectively.  The technical framework advanced in this item will create a baseline for deployment to ensure that public safety personnel are able to communicate when they converge on the scene of an emergency, wherever it may strike. 

The order designates LTE as a common technology platform for the nationwide network. LTE, a 4G broadband communications standard that several commercial wireless carriers are already deploying, has emerged as the technology of choice for public safety broadband communications. Although the Commission does not usually designate technologies, the adoption of LTE for public safety broadband networks is a critical baseline in ensuring that these networks are truly interoperable.  The record on this point was overwhelming.  The public safety community was united in its comments, and it just makes good sense.

The further notice seeks comment on a broad array of issues relevant to achieving public safety broadband network interoperability. It seeks comment first on an architectural vision for the network and on whether high-level principles should be established to guide the network’s development. Another major focus of the further notice is on how to implement a public safety-to-public safety roaming regime. The ability of public safety personnel to roam onto public safety networks outside their jurisdiction is an essential component of interoperability; accordingly, the further notice seeks comment on a host of issues relevant to developing a viable roaming framework for public safety broadband networks.

The further notice addresses many technical components of interoperability, such as network identifiers and system interfaces. It also proposes that public safety equipment and devices undergo testing to ensure that interoperability is truly being achieved.  Other issues addressed in the further notice, such as performance and coverage, are important to ensuring that public safety networks achieve a baseline of operability necessary to support interoperable communications.

Finally, the further notice seeks comment on how to ensure that public safety broadband networks are fully interoperable with Next Generation 911 networks. As we move forward with this proceeding and with the Commission’s comprehensive inquiry into NG911, we must be mindful of how these two proceedings link together.   

I hope that the further notice portion of this action will elicit a wide array of detailed comments on the myriad issues it presents. We look forward to reviewing these comments and to continuing our dialogue with the public safety community, our federal partners, and other stakeholders, whose input is crucial to our developing a regulatory framework for achieving true interoperability.

FCC Takes Critical Step Forward in the Deployment of a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network for America’s First Responders

May 18th, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

The failed bombing attack in Times Square on May 1, 2010 is another sobering reminder of our Nation’s need for a robust communications network for our Nation’s first responders.  To address this pressing need, the Commission’s National Broadband Plan (“NBP”) recommended that a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network be created, and outlined the steps for our Nation to achieve this goal. Now, only a couple months after releasing the NBP, the Commission has taken another critical step forward to further the deployment of this nationwide network and the realization of this essential component of our Nation’s public safety and national security infrastructure.

On May 11, 2010, the Commission unanimously adopted an order granting conditional approval of 21 petitions filed by cities, counties and states that sought waiver of the Commission’s rules to permit them to move forward with the construction of regional or statewide interoperable wireless broadband networks in the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum.  By acting on the petitions, the Commission not only enabled the petitioners to begin deployment of their networks, but provided a potential path forward for eventual development of a truly nationwide public safety broadband network.  Of particular, importance the Commission required the waiver recipients to proceed with the deployment of their networks under uniform terms and conditions, which will ensure that all the networks being deployed are technically compatible and fully interoperable.  The Commission also directed the waiver recipients to coordinate their efforts with the newly formed Emergency Response Interoperability Center (“ERIC”), which is developing a common interoperability framework that will apply to all public safety broadband networks.

The Commission was urged by many in the public safety community to act expeditiously.  Others recommended caution due to concern over the ability to integrate any early deployments into a later network.  The waiver order, and the path forward it provides, balances these concerns.  By acting now, the Commission enables public safety to take advantage of current and imminent development of 4G technology by commercial providers, which will provide the technological basis for deployment in the 700 MHz band beginning later this year.  Public safety can also begin to engage in the broader 4G development process to ensure that the process addresses public safety’s needs.  Finally, the Commission’s action will enable the waiver recipients to take advantage of funding opportunities and leverage existing deployment plans that may be time sensitive.
In response to those that recommended caution in light of the larger rulemaking proceeding, the Commission made clear that its grant of waivers does not prejudge the outcome of that proceeding.  The Commission also noted that the deployment of actual networks could serve to inform the record in the larger rulemaking. 
There remains much more hard work to be done before our Nation’s first responders have at their ready a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network.  We are all aware that it will not happen overnight.  But, with the commencement of deployment through the Waiver Order, the Commission has taken a critical step forward toward that goal.

A Compelling Vision for the Future of Public Safety Communications

March 17th, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Yesterday, the FCC released its National Broadband Plan, which lays out a comprehensive vision for the future of public safety communications. The Plan’s recommendations for advancing public safety and homeland security draw upon an extensive record and incorporate input from the public safety community, service providers, vendors and countless others. We truly appreciate the efforts of all who contributed to development of these recommendations, which we believe will revolutionize public safety communications and emergency response.

Our central recommendation is the creation of a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband wireless network through incentive-based partnerships between public safety agencies and the partner of their choice. The Plan asks Congress to commit a substantial amount of public funding—as much as $12-16 billion over 10 years—to support the build-out and operation of this network. It also recommends that the FCC create an Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) to ensure a baseline of operability and interoperability for the network nationwide.    Recommendations to enable roaming and priority access on commercial networks will also help ensure that public safety has access to a network when and where they need it.  Our recommendations will ensure that there truly is a nationwide network for the public safety community that is interoperable and provides them with the advanced communications capabilities they need.

The Plan also makes recommendations on how to improve cybersecurity. These include the development of a cybersecurity roadmap, in which the FCC—in coordination with the Executive Branch—will identify the nation’s most pressing cybersecurity threats and develop a plan for confronting them. Other recommendations focus on voluntary programs to promote the implementation of cybersecurity best practices and improve the FCC’s situational awareness and information base regarding cyber attacks and IP-based communications networks.  The Plan also addresses how to preserve the reliability and resiliency of our critical communications infrastructure and ensure that broadband networks can support prioritization of critical traffic.

Also included are proposals to facilitate the deployment of Next Generation 911, which will incorporate broadband technologies to improve the emergency response capabilities of public safety answering points (PSAPs), first responders, and other professionals.  The Plan recommends that Congress grant the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration authority to prepare a report to identify costs and recommend congressional appropriations, and that this report inform the development of a federal regulatory framework for NG911 deployment.

Finally, the Plan calls for the FCC to explore how to develop a multiple platform, redundant, next-generation alert system—one which uses broadband capabilities to better support underserved communities and reach a wider audience.  The Plan also asks the President to clarify agency roles on the implementation and maintenance of a next-generation alert and warning system. This would be an important step toward improved, timely and coordinated federal implementation of next-generation alerting systems.

My staff and I look forward to working with you as we implement the Plan’s recommendations for advancing public safety and homeland security through broadband. The Plan sets forth a compelling vision for the future of public safety communications, and we are already working with our public safety, federal and other partners to make these recommendations a reality.


Creating Choices, Flexibility and Real Solutions for America’s First Responders

March 2nd, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Working to Vastly Improve Public Safety Communications with a Wireless, Interoperable Broadband Network across the Nation

Past Experience Brings Home the Need

Our first responders deal with emergencies everyday, and on some days, those emergencies are truly disasters that test the limits of our systems and beyond.

These kinds of emergencies and disasters clearly demonstrate the importance of reliable, robust and interoperable communications for America’s first responders, based on the most advanced wireless broadband technology possible.

On Thursday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and I publicly rolled out highlights of the public safety goals and recommendations of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan (the Plan). A major set of recommendations is related to the creation of a nationwide interoperable wireless broadband network for public safety.

Maximizing Public Safety’s Choices and Flexibility

The FCC completed a thorough and exhaustive process that explored all of the options and developed a plan that is fact-based and data driven. With this in mind, the Plan offers a framework for ensuring a nationwide level of interoperability from the start and incredible flexibility and choice to public safety that we believe will lead to real solutions for America’s first responders. The following are highlights of the Plan’s recommendations:

  • Creates a nationwide interoperable wireless broadband network for public safety. The network will be interoperable across America: in the big cities, the suburbs and to the rural counties;
  • Maps out a path forward to build out a network for public safety in a cost-efficient way, hand-in-hand with commercial entities.
  • Gives public safety choices, flexibility and control on how they would like to deploy and operate their 700 MHz broadband networks in coordination with commercial entities;
  • Expands and enhances public safety’s access to the entire swath of the commercial 700 MHz band of spectrum, totaling 80 MHz. (Note: this provides a quantum leap in resiliency. If one network fails, public safety has at least one back up and maybe more!).
  • Enables public safety to obtain priority access service on commercial spectrum at reasonable cost when spectrum is needed most. (Note: this isn’t your dad’s priority access, but a dynamic broadband priority access).
  • Provides opportunities for roaming on commercial spectrum at reasonable rates for public safety, creating options for accessing additional spectrum.
  • Ensures public safety’s access to cutting-edge technology, including devices, at consumer electronic prices.


How to Make This All Work

The Plan recognizes the critical need for public funding to build out the network and support upgrades and operations.  The recommended plan would auction the D-block spectrum and expand opportunities to utilize more spectrum for public safety and better leverage commercial resources. This is why it is necessary that we have a funding mechanism in place to support the nationwide interoperable wireless broadband network for public safety in concert with commercial networks and resources. The Plan will recommend that there be two public funding streams over ten years: approximately $6.5 billion would fund the construction of the public safety broadband network and approximately an additional $6 to $10 billion would be dedicated to operating and upgrading the public safety network. This will better enable public safety to expand upon commercial deployments and obtain the level of coverage they need. The end result will be an advanced, widely available, and robust wireless broadband network for the Nation’s first responders.

Finally, the Plan would create an Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC). ERIC’s mission would be to establish a technical and operational framework that will ensure nationwide operability and interoperability from the outset in deployment and operation of the 700 MHz public safety broadband wireless network.

As broadband standards and technology evolve, ERIC will:

  • Adopt technical and operational requirements and procedures for ensuring a nationwide level of interoperability;
  • Adopt and implement other enforceable technical and operational requirements and procedures to address, at a minimum, operability, roaming, priority access, gateway functions and interfaces, and interconnectivity of public safety broadband wireless networks; and
  • Adopt authentication and encryption requirements for common public safety broadband applications and network usage.

Conclusion - Commitment to this Vision

From the beginning, I have had one goal: that we incorporate the public safety community’s requirements to design a truly nationwide, truly interoperable public safety broadband wireless network, one that is technologically sound, financially feasible and economically attractive to public safety’s potential partners. It must be one that can evolve with changing technology. It must be one that offers public safety agencies choices. This is the only plan I have seen that meets these stringent criteria. We have gotten this far by an amazing consensus and focus on the goal. This must continue if we are to succeed, and I am determined that we succeed.

[Cross-posted at The FCC Blog.]

Cyber Security

October 16th, 2009 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

The recent Cyber Security Broadband Workshop was a fascinating discussion, featuring panelists from a diverse group of backgrounds and perspectives.  We explored solutions and discussed many of the challenges that government and the private sector face in achieving cyber security as a matter of public safety and economic security.  So much of our lives rely on the Internet and the need to secure our online infrastructure is critically important, so I want to highlight just a few take-aways from the workshop. The experts agree that cyber security is not a barrier to broadband deployment, but methods of prevention, detection and restoration must continually be developed.  The public must have knowledge of what cyber attacks are and where they may come from and stay alert.  We all must do our part.   As technologies get more sophisticated, so do the threats.

Our panelists acknowledged the need to expand cyber security awareness and education for consumers and provide user-friendly tools and best practices to help protect personal computers.  Dr. Don Welch noted that the return on investment for cyber security, for both private and public entities, is negative; in other words, all the money and resources spent to protect systems go to ensuring that nothing happens.  The business community and government face the challenge of implementing robust cyber security solutions without severely stifling innovation or devalue the user experience. These were just a few interesting items of discussion from a conversation I hope we continue to have as the broadband plan is developed.  A key measure of our success in this area will be the degree to which we help increase the American public's knowledge and awareness of cyber security and the actions they can take to protect themselves and their privacy. Please feel free to contribute to the on-going conversation by sharing your comments and questions. In case you missed the workshop, you can view the presentations and materials here.

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Datamatrix and QR FCC Phones