Background

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission recommended the establishment of a nationwide, interoperable public safety communications network to resolve communications challenges faced by emergency responders. For the past decade, public safety worked with State and local government officials, the Federal government, and Members of Congress to amass support for a nationwide network.  On February 22, 2012, President Obama signed into law H.R.3630, the “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012” which includes provisions to fund and govern a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN).

The Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network, which will be run by FirstNet, an independent authority within the US Department of Commerce, will provide a secure, reliable and dedicated interoperable network for emergency responders to communicate during an emergency. Building the First new nationwide public safety interoperable wireless broadband network presents an opportunity to bring commercial technologies to the public safety community that will allow them access to much needed and reliable wireless data services.

FirstNet is headed by a 15-member Board, which holds the license to the entire 20 MHz of public safety broadband spectrum, and comprises the Secretary of Homeland Security, Attorney General of United States, Director of Office of Management and Budget, and 12 individuals appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. These appointees include at least three individuals representing the collective interests of states, locals, tribes, and territories, and at least three individuals who have served as public safety professionals. The appointments seek to provide a balance of geographical and regional, and rural and urban representation with each Board member possessing at least one of the following qualifications: Public safety, technical, network, or financial expertise.

FirstNet is responsible for the design, building and ongoing operation of the network.  As per the law, however, FirstNet must consult with state, local and regional, jurisdictions regarding a range of activities, including construction or access to the network, assignment of priority to local users and training. The more knowledgeable we become of our own needs, the better we can guide FirstNet as it designs the network.  

Now imagine a public safety first responder able to communicate on a dedicated cellular-type nationwide network; accessing databases from the field, transferring data and images on demand without delay.It is anticipated that the broadband network will be built with standards-based 4G/LTE broadband technology, allowing for much faster data transmissions than legacy networks. It will enable a new host of next generation applications for public safety, such as high-definition streaming video & pictures, database queries, download building plans, and much more. FirstNet can make this a reality. FirstNet will inspire new ways of performing public safety functions that are more effective and efficient. In the future, public safety will have purpose-built applications and a new ecosystem that will provide agencies with incredible opportunities to improve service to their communities.