While cable and telephone networks are busy renewing their national U.S. cable grids with fabby new tech, the government is being left behind...but not for long: The FCC wants a $16 billion national network for emergency service use.
The actual National Broadband Plan isn't due for a full unveiling until mid-March, but FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is so keen to get the ball rolling on a national broadband network for emergency uses that he's revealing this part of the plan early. The idea is simple—while broadband supply companies like Verizon have been busy building out a national network of high-capacity fiber optics for broadband, spending somewhere around $18 billion on it, the needs of emergency service "interoperable public public safety" communications aren't being met by these private plans. So Genachowski wants to spend $6 billion in Federal cash to build a nation-wide fiber network and lay out a further $6 billion to $10 billion to fund its ongoing operations over the next 10 years.
The network will be supported by a wireless system too, which could be created by forcing networks that recently bought frequencies in the 700MHz band to devote a small segment of priority airspace to the public safety grid. Genachowski isn't messing around with this request—he's strongly arguing that it's the "best and shortest path" to building a national public safety grid, and he's irritated that through political wranglings "we have gone too long with little progress to show for it."
What would the grid be used for? Its inception lay in analysis of how the emergency services around the U.S. responded to the events of 9/11. Airwaves were clogged with radio pager and cellphone calls, from emergency services and members of the public, and there was no way to absolutely guarantee the emergency responders or government officials would get priority on the airwaves, or even digital Net-based comms. A reserved broadband network, with prioritized radio bandwidth for mobile communications would've helped matters incredibly, and that's exactly what Genachowski is aiming at.