First Responder Network and Next-Generation Communications for Public Safety: Issues for Congress [August 7, 2012]   [open pdf - 415KB]

"Since September 11, 2001, when communications failures contributed to the tragedies of the day, Congress has passed several laws intended to create a nationwide emergency communications capability. Yet the United States has continued to strive for a solution that assures seamless communications among first responders and emergency personnel at the scene of a major disaster. To address this problem, Congress included provisions in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-96) for planning, building, and managing a new, nationwide, broadband network for public safety communications, and assigned additional spectrum to accommodate the new network. In addition, the act has designated federal appropriations of over $7 billion for the network and other public safety needs. These funds will be provided through new revenue from the auction of spectrum licenses. […] Many experts are concerned that these delays may place public safety officials at a disadvantage in negotiating with potential partners, increase costs, and add further delays in moving forward to build a nationwide broadband network. Requirements in the act for standards development may be insufficient to overcome current technical obstacles for desired network features such as roaming between public safety and commercial networks. In addition to monitoring progress in building the new broadband network for public safety, Congress may want to consider new policies for spectrum management and wireless innovation that would facilitate the transition to IP-enabled networks. Acceleration of innovation in next-generation wireless technologies would likely benefit not only public safety communications but also all consumers of wireless service and the American economy."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R42543
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