Authored By Jim Bugel, AT&T Assistant Vice President, Public Safety and Homeland Security

BugelOn Tuesday, I spent the morning at the Federal Communications Commission, participating in the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau’s workshop on critical infrastructure.  It was the second formal discussion on public safety issues the Bureau has organized since the FCC delivered its National Broadband Plan to Congress last month.

Maintaining a secure and reliable network is a top priority for AT&T so I appreciated the opportunity to emphasize the importance of network management tools to combat cybercrime.  It is imperative that we have the flexibility to be smarter and faster than our adversaries online to protect our customers.  I actually blogged in more detail about this right after the plan was released.

I’d like to highlight some other key issues concerning public safety that the Commission should be commended for making such a critical part of our country’s broadband agenda.

I was particularly pleased to see the Commission back a recommendation (page 320) that would make it easier for the timely release of federal assistance during a disaster to maintain or restore public safety communications.  This recommendation is in line with one made a couple years back with which I’m very familiar.

From 2007 to 2008, I served as Chairman of the Joint Advisory Committee on Communications Capabilities of Emergency Medical and Public Healthcare Facilities – quite a mouthful, I know, so we’ll just refer to it as JAC.  JAC was tasked with submitting a report to Congress, and in the report, my colleagues and I suggested that the Stafford Act be amended to allow for this exact type of limited federal assistance during a disaster.

Another encouraging section of the plan concerns the creation of a grant program to develop a nationwide, multi-pronged public safety broadband network (page 317).  Again back in 2007, I was co-chair (yes, I like to keep busy) of a task force under the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC). That January, we delivered a report to the President on emergency communications and interoperability that outlined just how to do this.

Kudos to the Commission for recognizing the value of these recommendations from JAC and NSTAC and for including them in the final plan.

The last thing I’d like to highlight is the Commission’s commitment to move forward with the creation of an Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC).  AT&T has long supported the creation of an organization that focuses on public safety broadband.  My colleague, Stacey Black, recently spoke about this at an FCC public forum, in which he emphasized the importance not only of interoperability but operability – the actual design, deployment and operation of a network, which we see as being an equal, if not more important, responsibility than interoperability.

There will be plenty to discuss on the public safety front as the Commission’s broadband plan is implemented, and I look forward to weighing in along the way on these critical issues.

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