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Public Safety Network Inquiry Issued by FirstNet

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By J. Bradford Currier, Marc Martin, and Marty Stern

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration seeks comment on the design, development, and deployment of the first nationwide interoperable public safety network under a Notice of Inquiry issued to help launch FirstNet. As we discussed previously, FirstNet will hold the nationwide public safety wireless license and is responsible for the buildout and operation of the public safety broadband network established under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act. FirstNet is charged with ensuring nationwide standards for use and access of the network and issuing requests for proposals to build, operate, and maintain the network. The NOI represents the first substantive action by FirstNet, following last week’s appointment of its Board of Directors, and signals the first step towards the deployment of a public safety communications system based on a single, national network.

The NOI specifically seeks comment on the FirstNet Nationwide Network (“FNN”) proposal, which was presented at FirstNet’s initial meeting. According to FirstNet, the FNN will achieve ubiquitous and interoperable service at reduced costs. The FNN proposes a network reliant on multiple wireless networks to ensure redundancy and reliability that will extend into previously underserved rural areas. The NOI also seeks comment on how FirstNet can develop applications for federal, state, local, and tribal public safety officials. FirstNet would define interface and certification requirements for the applications and call upon private sector developers to create applications that public safety officials could easily download and use. 

For comments regarding network structure and deployment, the NOI seeks proposals which: (1) provide for priority access and preemption features; (2) use core network infrastructure installed by commercial mobile operators in order to maximize coverage and performance; (3) reach operational capability as quickly as possible; and (4) enable voice services within the FirstNet network as well as to/from other commercial networks. For application issues, the NOI seeks comments which: (1) provide suggestions for applications which benefit public safety users; (2) address interface requirements and other application development procedures; (3) offer security features and certification requirements; and (4) suggest application delivery methods, such as an online storefront.

Comments in response to the FirstNet NOI are due by November 1, 2012.

UPDATE: Comments will now be accepted until November 9, 2012.