In February 2012, Congress enacted The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, containing landmark provisions to create a much-needed nationwide interoperable broadband network that will help police, firefighters, emergency medical service professionals and other public safety officials stay safe and do their jobs. The law’s governing framework for the deployment and operation of this network, which is to be based on a single, national network architecture, is the new "First Responder Network Authority" (FirstNet), an independent authority within NTIA. FirstNet will hold the spectrum license for the network, and is charged with taking “all actions necessary” to build, deploy, and operate the network, in consultation with Federal, State, tribal and local public safety entities, and other key stakeholders.
The Act provides $7 billion in funding towards deployment of this network, as well as $135 million for a new State and Local Implementation Grant Program administered by NTIA to support State, regional, tribal and local jurisdictions’ efforts to plan and work with FirstNet to ensure the network meets their wireless public safety communications needs.
In addition to carrying out its new responsibilities under the Act, NTIA is engaged in variety of other activities to advance public safety communications and support first responder needs:
- The Public Safety Communications Research program (PSCR) is supporting improvements in public safety communications through research, development, and testing to advance public safety communications interoperability. Housed within the Department of Commerce Labs in Boulder, Colorado, the PSCR program is a joint effort between the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Office of Law Enforcement Standards and NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security Office for Interoperability and Compatibility and the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services.
- NTIA oversees the Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) Grant Program, which helps first responders better communicate during disasters. NTIA, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has awarded nearly $1 billion to fund projects nationwide.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and NTIA awarded grants to the states and U.S. territories to improve 911 services and implement next-generation technologies. Under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, NHTSA and NTIA are tasked with administering an additional $115 million in grants to further support improvements to 911 services. That funding is not yet available.
- In addition, many of NTIA’s broadband Recovery Act projects benefit public safety.
SUMMARY OF PUBLIC OUTREACH EFFORTS CONCERNING STATE AND LOCAL PUBLIC SAFETY SPECTRUM MANAGEMENT POLICIES & PROCEDURES