Federal Communications Commission

Public Safety And Homeland Security Category

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.

9-1-1's Next Frontier

November 23rd, 2010 by George Krebs

This morning Chairman Genachowski, Public Safety Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett and a collection of FCC staff visited a state-of-the-art response facility at the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center in Arlington, Virginia. Following the vision laid out in the National Broadband Plan, the event marks the announcement of steps to revolutionize America’s 9-1-1 system by harnessing the potential of text, photo, and video in emergencies.

Our communications needs are increasingly reliant on mobile devices. In fact, 70% of 9-1-1 calls originate from mobile phones and users rely regularly on texts and multimedia messages. While a subsequent evolution of our 9-1-1 system seems a natural -- and obvious -- step for digitally aware citizen, our current 9-1-1 system doesn’t utilize the superb, possibly life-saving potential within our existing mobile devices. With videos, pictures, texts -- and other untold mobile innovations surely on the horrizon -- next-generation 9-1-1 will position public safety officials a step ahead with critical real-time, on-the-ground information.

After a tour of the high-tech operations room, Chairman Genachowski and Admiral Barnett spoke to the promise of next-generation 9-1-1. Here's an excerpt from Chairman Genachowski's speech.

"Even though mobile phones are the device of choice for most 9-1-1 callers, and we primarily use our phones to text, right now, you can’t text 9-1-1. Let me reiterate that point. If you find yourself in an emergency situation and want to send a text for help, you can pretty much text anyone EXCEPT a 9-1-1 call center.

"...It’s time to bring 9-1-1 into the digital age."

Read the rest of the Chairmans’s speech, view more photos and see the benefits of Next Generation 9-1-1 after the jump.

(This is cross-posted on The FCC Official Blog.)

Momentum Building for FCC Plan to Deliver Cutting-Edge Public Safety Network

June 24th, 2010 by Jennifer Manner - Deputy Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Momentum is building for the FCC’s plan – outlined in the National Broadband Plan – to deliver the nationwide, cutting-edge, wireless public safety network America’s first responders need. Just since May, we have granted 21 waiver petitions for early builds of this critical network in a range of areas from New York State to Pembroke Pines, Florida to Seattle, Washington. These early network deployments will help us identify issues and sound, practical solutions in our efforts to deploy a public safety broadband network across the United States, covering 99 percent of the population. 

What has been most interesting and encouraging is the support we’ve been receiving from the public safety and technical communities, industry, and opinion leaders for moving forward with our plan.  For example, as we approach the ninth anniversary of 9/11, it is important to note that the Chair, Thomas Kean and Vice Chair, Lee Hamilton of the 9/11 Commission have endorsed the FCC’s plan:

“The 9/11 Commission on which we served concluded that the absence of interoperable communications capabilities among public safety organizations at the local, state, and federal levels was a problem of the highest order.  Unfortunately, we have made little progress in solving this problem until now.  The Commission's proposed plan offers a clear roadmap for finally reaching that goal.  It will provide public safety users throughout the country with access to wireless broadband capabilities that will enable them to communicate effectively across departments and jurisdictions, while encouraging public safety to partner with commercial providers and leverage the investments they already have made.  It also calls for the public funding that is needed to help build, operate, and maintain the public safety network.”

To provide the technical underpinnings of our plan, we recently released a white paper on the capacity and performance needs of a 21st century public safety network.  This paper has been endorsed by four former FCC chief technologists and a large coalition representing well-over 200 companies, tens of thousands of jobs, and billions of  dollars of investment in our mobile broadband future.

Coalition for 4G in America (including Sprint Nextel Corporation, T-Mobile USA, Inc., the Rural Telecommunications Group, Inc., the Rural Cellular Association, Xanadoo Company, Access Spectrum, LLC, and Clearwire, Corp.):  “The Coalition for 4G in America applauds the Commission for engaging in a comprehensive analysis of the capacity needs for users of the interoperable public safety broadband networks recommended in the National Broadband Plan. The Coalition supports the Commission’s findings and endorses the assumptions that lead the Commission to conclude in the Capacity Study that 10 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band can meet the day-to-day capacity needs of the public safety community.

In light of the 700 MHz band’s superior radio frequency propagation characteristics, the allocation of 10 MHz in that band will provide public safety with ample coverage and capacity when used in cellular network architecture. Additionally, the near uniform adoption of spectrally efficient broadband technology across the entire 700 MHz band could allow public safety users to roam with priority access on adjacent commercial networks during surges in bandwidth demand. As explained below, the Coalition agrees with the central findings of the Capacity Study that site density, spectrally efficient technology, and roaming with priority access are critical inputs in maximizing the capacity of interoperable public safety broadband networks…”

Dale Hatfield, Former FCC Chief OET and adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado:  “Fortunately, in my opinion, legislation along the lines that have been set forth in the staff draft coupled with recommendations and analyses presented in the National Broadband Plan….provide the necessary policy direction, funding resources, and analytical framework to ensure the successful deployment of such a nationwide network.  I am in general agreement with the analysis contained in [the Capacity White Paper]…in terms of priority access and roaming…[this] is consistent with my strongly held belief that better spectrum management requires more dynamic sharing of the increasingly scarce resource.” 

Stagg Newman, Former FCC Chief Technologist:  “The Capacity White Paper provides the fact driven analysis that can drive cost effective policy decisions.  This paper clearly demonstrates the value of the incentivized partnership as the wise use of taxpayer dollars…
1)  10 MHz of broadband dedicated spectrum is certainly enough spectrum to meet public safety foreseeable day-to-day demand; and
2)  PS broadband applications, particularly incident video, requires a high density cellular network because of distance limitations.

The cost effective approach to meeting both needs above is to light-up public safety's broadband spectrum while sharing cell site and fiber infrastructure.  The country cannot afford to build a new totally stand-alone dense cellular public safety network to support only 1 Million or so users when each national cellular player supports many 10s of millions of users on its infrastructure.  The country can afford to give and should give public safety their own "lane" on the wireless broadband superhighway, i.e. dedicated spectrum on a shared broadband infrastructure.  Now is the time for Congress and the FCC to make some tough decisions and implement the FCC's recommendations for the national public safety broadband infrastructure.  In particular now is the time to appropriate the money needed to build a broadband public safety infrastructure in conjunction with the build-out of the commercial 4G Infrastructure in the U.S.”

Dave Farber, Former FCC Chief Technologist:  said the FCC deserves credit for a plan that offers a solution beyond throwing more spectrum at a problem. "They looked at the demand, looked at what was available and I thought came up with a very intelligent approach," Farber said. Some public safety groups are "rooted in the old way of thinking," he added. "There will always be protests against anything you do."

This week, we appointed twenty state and local public safety officials to our technical advisory committee, formed to advise the FCC’s Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC). This center will help ensure that public safety can communicate with one another across agencies and departments, and geographies.  This is all in addition to seeking public comment on interoperability rules and opening the filing window for the waiver recipients to make interoperability showings.  We are also seeking public comment on the proposed budget of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust, the public safety broadband licensee to administer the leases for the early builders of the public safety broadband network. 

As we continue to progress with a creating a regulatory regime to enable the deployment of the public safety broadband network, we have recently received the following support:

Chuck Canterbury, President, National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP):  “The FOP supports the National Broadband Plan…and its strategic outline for the creation of a fully interoperable national network for public safety….The FOP agrees with the most recent conclusions of the FCC’s white paper, entitled, The Public Safety Nationwide Interoperable Broadband Network, A New Model for Capacity, Performance and Cost, which shows that the current spectrum dedicated to the Public Safety Broadband Licensee (PSBL) will provide the capacity and performance necessary for day-to-day communications and serious emergency situations…..The two largest public safety organizations, the FOP and our colleagues at the International Association of Fire Fighters…do not believe that the FCC’s vision or the overarching goal of establishing a national public safety broadband network depends on the D block being added to [the public safety license]…..The existing spectrum, along with…enhanced roaming on the commercial networks…would allow public safety agencies to operate across jurisdictional boundaries during emergencies in which greater capacities were needed….Capacity is not the only issue—an honest assessment of the needs and the cost to use that capacity effectively are equally important….”

Jonathan Moore, International Association of Fire Fighters:  “The public safety broadband network…outlined in the National Broadband Plan, will help assure that public safety has adequate capacity while providing first responders with resilient, hardened and affordable coverage…we believe that the ten megahertz currently allocated to public safety, combined with roaming and priority access on the D block and other commercial networks, will provide public safety with adequate capacity for everyday use as well as large-scale emergencies.  Furthermore, because such partnerships will be required to meet the….requirements established by ERIC, which itself will be advised by public safety, we have confidence that they will meet public safety’s mission critical standards….Leveraging commercial technologies…is expected to reduce the cost of devices to public safety….Lastly, by auctioning the D block, the FCC plan provides public safety with a true competitive choice among commercial partners, as well as the more competitive network rates which would follow.”

Brian Fontes, National Emergency Numbering Association:  “In NENA’s opinion, having access to a nationwide public safety broadband network with significant funding for construction, maintenance and operation of the network, with a guarantee of roaming and priority access, is a workable approach.”

Steve Berry, President and CEO, Rural Cellular Association:  “The FCC got it right!  Spectrum alone will not satisfy public safety’s needs - a new broadband technology with interoperable devices and funds to build the network is the best prescription.  I am pleased with the FCC’s report, and we can only hope that public safety takes advantage of this unique opportunity.”

Joe Hanley, Technology Planning and Service, Telephone and Data Systems, Inc. (US Cellular):   “Support the….proposal to auction the D block and use the proceeds to fund a nationwide, interoperable broadband network.  A commercial auction of reasonably-sized D Block licenses followed by negotiated public/private partnerships will help meet both public safety and commercial broadband goals….A commercial auction of the D Block with an obligation for 700 MHz licenses to provide roaming access to public safety along with the option of public/private partnerships is the best path forward….commercial use [of the D block] may be essential to driving the necessary volumes of handsets and other devices need by public safety.  And as commercial use of this spectrum rises, the prices for public safety handsets should continue to decline…U.S. Cellular strongly supports the FCC’s plan for a commercial auction of D Block licenses followed ideally by shared public safety/commercial network partnerships.  With the PSBL spectrum, adequate funding and opportunities to negotiate with multiple commercial operators in a region, public safety entities will be in a strong position to develop favorable arrangements with D block and other 800 MHz licensees or develop public safety-only networks if they so choose.”

Coleman Bazelon, Brattle Group:  “The D block should be auctioned for unrestricted commercial uses and public safety’s needs should be directly funded.”

We are at a critical juncture.  We must move forward now with the deployment of the nationwide interoperable public safety network in order to realize this vision. In the end, under the FCC plan, public safety will have access to the latest wireless technologies, including handsets at commercially competitive prices that can be used across the 700 MHz band.  This will be particularly critical on those really bad days when first responders need additional capacity to respond to emergencies beyond the spectrum dedicated for their use. No longer will public safety be left behind the times or stuck on a technological island with outdated, expensive equipment they cannot afford to upgrade or replace.  Public safety will no longer be a bystander in the broadband revolution; they will have the opportunity to be part of future technological innovations, keeping pace with the latest broadband technologies for years to come.

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.

Connecting America’s Stories: Public Safety

May 12th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

The effort to manage the oil spill hitting the Gulf Coast is just one more reminder of how critical the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan are for ensuring public safety.  The gulf coast states have built a communications network to help their safety and cleanup operations talk to one another – a problem that has plagued emergency responders for years – quite memorably during both Hurricane Katrina and September 11th. Around the country people are using broadband technology in new and creative ways to help keep their communities safe and informed. 

Peggy is a farmer in Deming, Washington.

We've recently started a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) that disseminates information (flood warnings, announcements for emergency training sessions, and alerts about at-large criminals, sex-offender re-locations, etc.) Without this email-tree, we would all be in the dark, cut off from training that could save lives, and at higher risk to danger.

In this video authors of the plan look at how communications technology can be better designed to make Americans safer.

Jennifer Manner, lead for the Public Safety and Homeland Security chapter of the Broadband Plan, focused on the need to get all of the country’s public safety agencies on the same frequency – literally. 

One of the challenges has been that the networks are very fragmented, so emergency responders aren’t often able to talk to one another across jurisdictions, or across geographies… if you remember during Katrina this was a big problem, during 9-11 this was another big problem. …

[One of our proposals is] an Emergency Reliability and Interoperability Center (ERIC) – we wanted the system to be interoperable – we wanted the officer in New York to be able to go to California to help out and be able to use his device there. 

In addition, the Broadband Plan looks at ways for citizens to get information more quickly and efficiently.  Jennifer also talks about the great potential for activating citizens in emergencies.

If you think about the Amber Alerts that we have today, wouldn’t it be more effective if they could actually show you the face of the child who is missing, or the picture of the car in a real time basis?

Check out the Action Agenda for the next steps the FCC is taking to make these and other changes to support public safety in America a reality, and keep sharing your stories of how broadband access helps you and your community stay safe.

FCC Calls on Government Officials to Help Create Technical Framework for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network

April 29th, 2010 by Jennifer Manner - Deputy Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

On April 23, 2010, the FCC established the Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC) within the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, whose mission is to promote the interoperability and operability of public safety broadband communications in the 700 MHz band. While ultimately we plan to create a widely-inclusive Public Safety Advisory Committee to work with ERIC, until that can be established, we are seeking nominations for an interim Technical Advisory Committee that will immediately assist ERIC with establishing technical issues surrounding interoperability for the nationwide public safety broadband network.

It is essential that we begin this process to ensure that we are able to set the technical framework for buildout of the network that is in-line with the buildout of commercial networks using 4G technologies so that we don't miss the technological wave that will eventually revolutionize wireless broadband services in America.  The time is now to get this moving in the interest of public safety's needs long-term and those who serve on this interim committee would be providing a commendable and worthwhile service on behalf of the American public. In the end, the Committee will serve a vital role in helping us on the path forward with the creation of a nationwide interoperable wireless public safety broadband network for America's first responders, hospitals and other public safety officials.

The Committee will be comprised of Federal government officials or employees and elected officers of State, local or tribal governments (or designated employees authorized to act on their behalf) are eligible for membership on the Committee. What better way to have input on such an important initiative and one that we hope will address the 9/11 interoperable communications crisis now facing police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and hospitals across this nation? It is the input from these dedicated public safety officials that is going to help make all the difference in ensuring that this network is truly interoperable and nationwide -- one that benefits first responders from Maine, to West Virginia, on to Texas, Montana and California.

We are seeking members of the Committee with the following experience:

  • Knowledge of 4G wireless standards and practical industry implementation of these standards;
  • Working experience in technical management and operations of public safety mission critical communications and networks;


  • Working experience with RF/wireless technologies;
  • Working experience with public safety applications and standards (such as P25) and existing public safety vendor products and systems;


  • Knowledge of interoperability and spectrum management;
  • Knowledge of existing commercial wireless systems;
  • Knowledge of functionality, wireless market products and implementation of encryption, authentication, roaming and priority access; and


  • Experience with capacity planning and RF network design, implementation and optimization.

If you are interested, please send:
(a) the name of the applicant or nominee and a statement of his or her eligibility to participate on the Committee;
(b) the applicant's or nominee's mailing address, e-mail address, telephone number, and facsimile machine number; and
(c) a statement of the applicant’s or nominee’s qualifications for membership on the Committee.
by mail to Brian Hurley, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th St., SW, Washington, D.C., 20554, or by email to All nominations must be submitted by May 19, 2010. The FCC will select members after we receive the nominations.

We are looking forward to hearing from you. Working together, we can achieve this important public safety goal.

Capture The Phone Numbers Using Your Camera Phone

If you have a camera and a 2D matrix code reader on your mobile phone, you can capture the FCC Phone numbers right to your phone by following these three easy steps:
Step 1: Take a photograph of one of the codes below using the camera on your mobile phone.
Step 2: Use your phone's Datamatrix or QR Code reader to decode the information on the photograph. Please note, these code readers are device specific and are available to download on the internet.
Step 3: Store the decoded address information to your phone's address book and use it with your Maps or GPS application.

Datamatrix and QR FCC Phones