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GCN : May 2013
The congressionally mandated First Responder Network Au- thority (FirstNet) has been giv- en the daunting task of creating a first-of-its-kind network of unprecedented scope and reli- ability for the nation's first re- sponders. "This is the largest telecom project in our history," FirstNet chairman Samuel Ginn recently told a House panel. The goal is nothing less than complete cov- erage of every square meter of the United States and its territo- ries --- both indoors and out --- in a dedicated multicarrier net- work with a level of reliability and security not available from commercial services. "This is going to be a massive, challeng- ing and complex undertaking," Ginn said. FirstNet is in the early days of its organization and only the broadest details of the techni- cal architecture for the net- work have been decided. "We are going to implement an LTE system," Ginn told the House Energy and Commerce sub- committee on Communications and Technology. It will provide broadband communications to support voice, video and data, be interoperable between agen- cies and across jurisdictional lines and operate in the 700 MHz band set aside by the Fed- eral Communications Commis- sion for the effort. According to FirstNet board member Susan Swenson, a re- tired telecommunications in- dustry executive, the design of the network is a work in prog- ress. "The details of that are be- ing worked out," she said. The current vision for the net- work is a nationwide backbone based on open, non-proprietary standards and commercially available equipment. It will complement, not replace, exist- ing land mobile radio, cellular and IP services being used by agencies. States will be given the opportunity to opt out of FirstNet has the daunting task of building a first-of-its kind multi-carrier broadband network for more than 60,000 federal, state, local and tribal agencies. HOW TO BUILD A TRULY NATIONWIDE PUBLIC SAFETY NETWORK BY WILLIAM JACKSON 24 GCN MAY 2013 • GCN.COM Wide-area surveillance: A security officer monitors surveillance cameras at the threat detection center at the Port of Los Angeles. As envisioned using FirstNet, multimedia intelligence could be shared directly with every law enforcement jurisdiction in the U.S.