The Colorado Public Safety Broadband Governing Body recently submitted comments to the FCC seeking “clarification concerning the guidelines and requirements for interoperability and roaming between the NPSBN and commercial wireless carriers.” Colorado withdrew those comments, and for good reason – these issues have been clearly addressed. But as FirstNet builds momentum, it may be worth remembering Congress’ vision for our nation’s first dedicated public safety network.
Public safety urged the creation of a single, dedicated network after emergencies such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the existing patchwork public safety communications network was inadequate. Congress responded by creating FirstNet, which would be built with a “single, national network architecture” consisting of a “core network” and a “radio access network.” This network design was deliberate, ensuring reliable, secure communications for first responders across agencies and jurisdictions, while also allowing first responders to reach any caller anywhere.
Notwithstanding Congress’ clear direction, some want to expose FirstNet’s highly-secure core to other network cores, creating more potential points of failure that undermine reliability and security. Some even suggest exposing FirstNet to “virtual” public safety cores that share physical elements with commercial networks. This is a bad idea because unforeseen security threats (e.g., denial of service attacks) or routine maintenance gone awry (e.g. hardware and firmware updates) on a commercial core could affect any virtual public safety core that shares system resources.
Importantly, FirstNet’s “single, national network architecture” does not undermine interoperability with other networks because FirstNet is being built on open industry standards – the same industry standards that commercial networks are built on. This means that FirstNet subscribers will be able to call, text and email customers on other networks and vice versa, just as they can today.
First responders already face enough risk in the field. There is simply no legal or policy basis to compromise their secure communications platform with approaches they don’t want or need, and that run contrary to the FirstNet mandate.
AT&T is proud to be partnering with the First Responder Network Authority to deliver the highly secure communications platform that public safety has been fighting to get for over a decade. FirstNet is bringing public safety a much-needed robust, highly secure network to help them connect to the critical information they need. Every day. And in every emergency. No further clarification of the mission is needed.