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.” Title VI of H.R. 3630, entitled “Public Safety Communications and Electromagnetic Spectrum Auctions,” includes provisions to fund and govern a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network.
Nationwide Network Governance: First Net
A key provision of the law creates the First Responders Network Authority, or FirstNet, an independent authority within the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). FirstNet is responsible for the design, building, and framework of the nationwide network. The Act licenses the existing public safety broadband spectrum and the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to FirstNet, which is responsible for ensuring nationwide standards for use and access of the network.
The Secretary of Homeland Security is one of the three Federal representatives to the FirstNet Board, along with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director, and the US Attorney General. The Commerce Secretary was tasked with appointing the 12 other members. The FirstNet Board will also establish a standing public safety advisory committee to advise FirstNet on the needs of public safety.
In addition to FirstNet, the Act established the Technical Advisory Board for First Responder Interoperability, known as the Interoperability Board, within the FCC. The FCC Interoperability Board was required by law to develop a set of recommended minimum technical requirements to ensure a nationwide level of interoperability for the nationwide network. The “Recommended Minimum Requirements to Ensure Nationwide Interoperability for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network” were approved for transmittal to FirstNet on June 21, 2012, and per the Act’s requirements, the Board was terminated on July 6, 2012.
Evolution of Emergency Communications/Network Planning
FirstNet is required to consult with State, local, regional, and tribal jurisdictions as plans for the network are made. In order to coordinate more effectively with FirstNet, it is imperative that State, local, and tribal agencies prepare for the network by ensuring that their jurisdictions are poised to incorporate this new tool into their public safety operations and governance structures. States and localities must assess their own resources and needs. For more information on actions states can take to prepare for the network, visit: The Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network: First Steps.
In addition to taking steps to prepare for the network, it is important to recognize that the Nation’s first responders will continue to rely on the current land mobile radio (LMR) infrastructure during this time and this technology must be maintained to prevent system failures and gaps in services. In order to be as effective and efficient as possible, and to meet the needs of its end users, the nationwide network will take time to develop and deploy. We must ensure that the current resources are in place during the transition to allow our first responders to continue their work. For more information on the evolution from LMR to the nationwide network, please view the Public Safety Communications Evolution brochure.
DHS Role in Developing and Deploying the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network
DHS, through the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC), supports the establishment of the nationwide network, and is working with the Departments of Commerce and Justice and the FCC to ensure it meets the needs of users in the public safety community. In addition, a key component of OEC’s efforts has been, and will continue to be, engagement and collaboration with public safety and government at the Federal, State, local and tribal levels. As the new network is developed and deployed, this engagement will be more important than ever.
Support for State, Local, and Tribal Partners
- Statewide Communication Interoperability Plan (SCIP) Implementation Workshops – OEC is supporting the States to incorporate broadband initiatives into their Statewide Plans.
Support for Federal Partners
- User Requirements and Grants Policy - Through the Emergency Communications Preparedness Center (ECPC), OEC is working to identify federal user requirements and developing grants policy for a broadband network. DHS is also identifying user requirements within the Department through the One DHS Emergency Communications Committee; which is managed by OEC.
- “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012” (PDF, 102 pages, 379 KB)
- Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network Fact Sheet (PDF, 2 pages, 693 KB)
- The Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network: First Steps Case Study (PDF, 2 pages, 679 KB)
- Public Safety Communications Evolution brochure (PDF, 6 pages, 1.37 MB)
For additional information on the implementation of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network, contact OEC at OEC@dhs.gov