Institute for Telecommunication Sciences / February 2012

February 2012: FirstNet Established

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, signed into law on February 22, 2012, included a section on Public Safety Communications and Electromagnetic Spectrum Auctions (Title VI of Public Law 112–96, codified at 47 U.S.C. §1401 ff.). The law a) established the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) as an independent authority within the NTIA, b) directed the FCC to license the 700 MHz D block exclusively to FirstNet for an initial term of 10 years, and c) directed FirstNet to establish in that frequency an interoperable nationwide public safety broadband network based on a single, national network architecture. During the emergency response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (“the 9/11 attack”), responding public safety agencies were greatly hampered by the inadequacy of their communications systems and the inability of systems used by different jurisdictions to interoperate. Improving public safety communications systems has been a primary focus of ITS research throughout its history. In the 1990s, ITS researchers worked with Federal, state, and local agencies and industry to define foundational public safety communication standards for an interoperable wireless land mobile digital radio public safety communication system—the P25 Standard. In the 2000s, ITS efforts were expanded to further advance the P25 goal as a user-driven process for efficient use of limited spectrum resources while providing essential and reliable push-to-talk features and ITS helped establish the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program to accelerate the development of advanced broadband communication technologies. More recently, ITS efforts strongly supported completion by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) of initial broadband wireless mission critical standards. The realization in 2018 of FirstNet’s initial operational capabilities in conjunction with continuing wide use of P25 systems attests to the strong positive contributions ITS has made to accelerate global deployment of efficient and effective narrowband and broadband wireless communication systems to satisfy evolving public safety community needs.