March 29, 2013 By Brian Heaton
The logic behind creating a nationwide broadband network for first responders is simple. Deploy a high-speed wireless communications system so that federal, state and local emergency response personnel can share data, do their jobs more efficiently and save more lives in the process.
But establishing robust wireless connectivity across every square meter of the United States’ diverse terrain is a lofty goal for even the most seasoned team of network engineers. Mountains and other natural interference can wreak havoc on even the strongest commercial cellular signals. And that doesn’t even address the potential for political bureaucracy and red tape.
Despite the challenges, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) — an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that was established last year to help make the national broadband network a reality — is making progress.
Seven regional wireless connectivity projects will serve as preliminary test sites. The hope is that once online, the sites will provide lessons learned and deployment data for future construction of a national model.
The sites, located in Adams County, Colo.; Charlotte, N.C.; the state of Mississippi; Los Angeles; the San Francisco Bay Area; northern New Jersey; and Albuquerque and Santa Fe, N.M., will negotiate and sign separate lease agreements with FirstNet to use the 700 MHz spectrum for broadband communications. The NTIA will give final approval.