In Pursuit of a Next Generation Network for Public Safety Communications
University of Colorado Law School
Dale N. Hatfield
University of Colorado at Boulder
CommLaw Conspectus - Journal of Communications Law and Policy, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2007
U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-07
In its rules for the auction of 700 MHz spectrum freed up as a result of the digital transition, the FCC has embraced the concept of a private/public partnership as an important step towards the development of a nationwide interoperable broadband communications network for public safety. For this effort to move forward successfully, however, policymakers must have realistic expectations about the time and effort it will take to implement it effectively. In particular, as the Article explains, there are notable challenges in developing a new policy direction that will transition public safety agencies from their current reliance on antiquated equipment that they own to one where they will become smart users of advanced information and communications technology provided by commercial vendors.
This Article highlights the critical challenges facing policymakers as they seek to facilitate the development of a nationwide interoperable broadband communications network for public safety. Notably, it sets forth the necessary technological changes in some detail, explaining the evolution of modern public safety communications systems and their attendant technological and operational limitations as well as the technological requirements, architecture, and possible constraints associated with a next generation network. It also highlights the strategies available to policymakers - the government as contractor model and the public safety spectrum licensee model - as means of spurring this transition. In so doing, it outlines the critical steps necessary to manage the transition to a new technological architecture, including the challenges of working within the current technological framework, building a sustainable funding base, and establishing clear requirements and standards for an next generation architecture. In short, the Article provides important guidance on the transition to an next generation network for public safety and also highlights critical governance, technological, and regulatory challenges that must be surmounted to make that transition a success.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 48
Keywords: public safety, spectrum policy, interoperability, homeland security
JEL Classification: K23, O38
Date posted: November 27, 2007 ; Last revised: October 13, 2008