In Feburary, 2012, Congress passed the “Spectrum” Act and designated 20 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum in the 700 MHz band for the primary use of public safety agencies, specifically law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical responders. While First Responders have priority on this spectrum band, Congress allowed virtually any government agency and, indeed, even consumers and businesses, to use the spectrum, although on a lower priority.
Congress also created the FirstNet authority to spend up to $7 billion to create this nationwide network, but required the network to ultimately pay its own way. In other words, the income from charges to FirstNet users must pay all the costs of operating the network. Given that there are probably only 5 million or so potential First Responder users, that will be difficult. Commerical networks which have broad geographic coverage (“nationwide” or at least “nationwide populated areas”) have 20 million to 100 million or more users.
Perhaps the public safety spectrum band should be enabled in every consumer and business cell phone and smart phone, for use in reaching 911. This gives FirstNet more income while at the same time potentially improving the safety of the cell-phone-using public. Read my full blog post about this proposal at Urgent Communications (June, 2013).