From Tragedy Comes Progress: How 9/11 Impacted Public Safety


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Eighteen years ago, tragedy struck the U.S., and during the attack on 9/11, radio systems used by emergency personnel could not operate competently across agencies. In the aftermath, an investigation by the 9/11 Commission revealed gaps in emergency communications across the country, prompting the need for a nationwide network for law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical personnel.

In 2012, Congress authorized the creation of the First Responder Network Authority (now FirstNet) and allocated 20 megahertz of spectrum, known as Band 14, to a dedicated first responder broadband network. 

The estimated $54 billion needed to build out the network was raised by selling television spectrum in the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction and by entering a 25-year public-private partnership with AT&T. The telecom is now building out and funding FirstNet, which went live in March 2018. The effort in the U.S has also created and inspired new public safety systems worldwide.

The ultimate vision for public safety is a converged network, a dedicated, public safety wireless broadband infrastructure capable of offering mission-critical services; these services will include voice, data, and video. LMR and LTE networks are coming together to make this vision a reality, albeit slowly.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is working in conjunction with the public safety community to define operational requirements and priorities, per The requirements include priority and preemption, quality of service, reliability, resiliency, roaming, plus spectrum efficiency and capacity.

In October 2017, representatives of FirstNet took emergency communication across the pond, opening up a conversation with Europen operators. They discussed current developments and future perspectives of critical communications. The group also issued a Joint Declaration on Public Safety Mission vowing to work collaboratively to drive standardization, encourage innovation, and support users of public safety-critical communications networks.

The following are signatories to the declaration, carrying out the critical-communications mission in their respective countries:

The group also extended an invitation to international operators, manufacturers and commercial providers from around the world to join them in carrying out the critical-communications mission. The declaration noted that “over time, more and more businesses and services that depend on continuous uninterrupted operation and communication – e.g. for energy and water supply, transportation, smart cities, automotive, or remote health care – will need to be part of our security plans, in order to ensure a secure and functioning environment for our global society.”

(Editor’s Note: send us your stories from 9-11. Where were you? How has it changed what you do?)

September 11, 2019

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