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Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network
On February 22, 2012, President Obama signed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 into law. This legislation became Public Law 112-96 and gave Public Safety an unparalleled push toward Interoperability and next-generation technologies, with the reallocation of the 700 MHz D-block and the creation of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). FirstNet has been tasked with planning and building the first ever Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) to provide reliable, coast-to-coast Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) coverage and Interoperability among agencies.
700 MHz Broadband Spectrum
After significant efforts from the first responder community and Public Safety advocates, sufficient spectrum resources were provided by Public Law 112-96 to build this historic network. The 700 MHz D-block that was reallocated by the law includes 758-763 MHz and 788-793 MHz. This spectrum, combined with the former Public Safety Spectrum Trust licensed spectrum has been licensed to FirstNet, for a combined 10x10 Broadband spectrum chunk in the 758-768 MHz and 788-798 MHz blocks. This is the first time in history that Public Safety has had access to a contiguous swath of spectrum of this size.
Funding for the Network
The NPSBN construction will be funded through money borrowed by the NTIA from the National Treasury, combined with proceeds from FCC Incentive Auctions and other spectrum auctions authorized under Public Law 112-96. Ongoing operations and maintenance will be funded through the Public Safety Trust Fund (PSTF) and a combination of user fees paid by opt-out states and secondary users.
For an overview of funding for the NPSBN, click here.
States Opt-in/Opt-out Requirements
Once FirstNet announces that it has completed its RFP process, states must choose within 90 days to opt-in and participate in the national FirstNet buildout, or opt-out and initiate their own implementation to be interoperable within the NPSBN. Opt-out states must meet the minimum technical requirements and interoperability requirement, and then complete their own RFP processes within 180 days of notifying FirstNet, NTIA, and the FCC of their decision.
State and Local Implementation
Each state's involvement in the NPSBN hinges on the decision of its Governor to opt-in or opt-out of the network. Opt-in states will comply with FirstNet's communications plan and implement their part of the network alongside FirstNet. Opt-out states will be required to submit their plan for approval by FirstNet and the FCC before moving forward with securing funding and integrating their own systems into the NPSBN.
LTE: A Brand New Horizon for Public Safety
The FirstNet Board has discussed offering Voice, Messaging, and Video on the network, a triple threat which would in itself greatly improve. Although Voice Over LTE (VoLTE) solutions are still under development, Messaging and Video services combined with current LMR voice systems will greatly improve the ability of first responders to protect citizens. Applications planned for the NPSBN will allow first responders to access valuable tools to better ensure the safety and security of our nation's citizens.
For more information on FirstNet and its progress, including scheduled meetings, webcasts, documents and presentations, visit the NTIA's website.