FCC considers state, regional public safety networks

States, cities and counties are petitioning to form their own networks

The Federal Communications Commission has another challenge to its plan to create a nationwide broadband network for public safety needs — four state governments and more than a dozen cities and counties are applying to set up local and regional public safety networks immediately in the same bandwidth in the FCC's plan.

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau is considering 13 petitions for waivers for authority to deploy public safety broadband systems on a local or regional basis. Those systems would operate in the same 700 MHz bandwidth currently licensed to a trustee for the purpose of the FCC’s proposed nationwide broadband public safety network, the commission said in a news release on Aug. 14.

The District of Columbia, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and North Dakota, along with Boston; New York City; San Antonio, Texas; San Francisco; San Jose and several other cities, have petitioned the FCC to create their own broadband networks for first responders.

The petitioners claim to have sufficient funding available to deploy their own such networks, either on their own or with partners. The state and city officials seeking waivers say they can deploy those networks in advance of the FCC’s completion of the proposed nationwide network.

The petitioners also assert “that these deployments can be accomplished in a manner that may be integrated into any such network resulting from the Commission’s rule-making,” the FCC news release said.

The FCC has been working on plans for the nationwide broadband network for emergency officials for several years. The plan originated in Congress, which ordered the radio spectrum to be made available for public use as broadcasters converted to digital television.

In 2007, the commission designated the Public Safety Spectrum Trust as the license holder for 10 MHz of bandwidth in the 700 MHz band. In 2008, the FCC attempted to find a buyer who would agree to share control of the spectrum with the trust and would make the spectrum available to public safety crews in emergencies. However, there were no successful bidders. Since then, the FCC has been preparing for additional rule-making for the public safety network. The FCC also is preparing a general National Broadband Plan under the economic stimulus law.

The public safety spectrum trust is conditionally supporting several of the 13 petitions for waivers, provided that sufficient safeguards are in place to ensure integration of any such networks into the FCC’s nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network, the FCC said. The trust is recommending that it and the FCC provide specific guidance on technology standards and system requirements to fulfill those conditions.

The FCC is inviting comments until Oct. 16.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group