In February 2012 President Obama signed legislation that started the nation on a journey to build a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN)—which will provide comprehensive, high-speed wireless communication services to more than 60,000 public safety and emergency response agencies. Among other things, the legislation set the stage for three monumental tasks:
- First, reallocate the 700 MHz “D block” section of the airwaves to public safety.
- Next, establish a governance structure, called FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority), and charge it with “taking all actions necessary to build, deploy, and operate the network in consultation with federal, state, tribal and local public safety entities.”
- Last, use federal grant money to begin building the network and support these entities in their planning.
COPS Office Issue Brief #13, titled Prepping for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network, provides an update on the current status of the nationwide network and offers steps that public safety decision-makers, including law enforcement, can take to prepare for the network implementation.
The Issue Brief was prepared by SEARCH under funding from the COPS Office, which released it in late September 2013.
Bonnie Maney, a Public Safety Training Manager and Information Sharing Specialist at SEARCH, wrote the Brief. She is one of 40 practitioners who serve on the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), which informs the FirstNet Board.
In the Brief, Ms. Maney offers some historical perspective for the network and then details five steps that local agencies can take to prepare to integrate with the network. She encourages stakeholders to seek out reliable resources to get the facts from those who are working on the network.
Those doing the heavy lifting for this challenging opportunity include FirstNet; the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA); the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC); the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC); and on the state level, state interoperability governing bodies (SIGB) and Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (SWICs).
What is the NPSBN?
Following the terrorist attacks in 2001, the 9/11 Commission recommended the establishment of a nationwide, interoperable public safety communications network to resolve communications challenges faced by emergency responders. In the following decade, public safety worked with state and local government officials, the federal government, and members of Congress to amass support for a nationwide network.