$7 Billion Public Safety Communication: States Get Ready for Planning Grants

Now’s the time to get ready to plan the best uses of public safety communication investments.

Summer-fall is the time for states, regions and communities to get ready for planning so-called “interoperable” state public safety communication networks to be funded by $7 billion in Federal resources in the coming decade.

Local community anchor institution networks will have opportunities to help design ways to link public safety communication systems with public-private “community response” networks that engage in community outreach, including to vulnerable populations, everyday and in times of emergency. 

“Community assemblies” in local and regional areas are important venues to bring parties together as part of broadband extension and civic development plans.  With more than 4 percent of the nation’s population, Illinois might receive as much as $300 million to invest in new equipment and support.


In February 2012 Congress passed the Middle Class Tax bill that set funding formulas for a newly created national network of state public safety communication airwaves that enable all police, fire, ambulance and other parties to communicate with each other.

An estimated $7 billion in multi-year funding will come from the FCC’s sale of spectrum over a number of years.  The system, called FirstNet, will operate under FCC license granted to the National Telecommunication and Information Administration, with a 15 member board to be designated by August 20.   

Also in August, each state governor’s will be asked to appoint a lead agency to coordinate planning and implementation of an interoperability communication plan for statewide and local public safety parties, including community response parties. 

See May 14, 2012 National Journal article: NTIA Seeks Comments on National Public Safety Network

Once these designations are in place, each state will have an opportunity to apply for its portion of $135 million under the State and Local Implementation Grant Program.  These state, regional and local consultation grants will help plan the “interoperability” stages of each state’s public safety communication system, and to integrate them with local and regional health, community response networks.  

See information on FirstNet activities as part of NTIA Public Safety agenda.

Public Safety is one of seven National Needs under the FCC National Broadband Plan.

Structuring involvement of local governments and other players

Meanwhile, NTIA is reviewing comments on the initial design of the FirstNet system.

Recently, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, along with the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, and the US Conference of Mayors, submitted comments to the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) concerning the development of the state and local implementation grant program for the nationwide public safety broadband network.  

These organizations stressed the important role that local governments will play in the deployment and use of the network and urged that the program be crafted to ensure federal funding is made available to local jurisdictions for network planning and consultation purposes.

Public comments received by NTIA on the development of the state and local grant program for the nationwide public safety broadband network can be viewed at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/federal-register-notice/2012/comments-development-state-and-local-implementation-grant-program

Linking public safety communications with wider community anchor institution networks

The design of public safety communication systems, including substantial mobile communications, involves planning in the coming year in local areas and regions and cooperation among public and private parties of many kinds.

There will be a need to integrate implementation of the new “public safety communication” system linking police, fire, ambulance and other first responders, with other “community response” parties, including FEMA-related human service agency and interstate networks, including cooperation among 911, 311 and 211 systems and offices of local public officials and agencies. 

Many parties are involved in designing and maintaining public safety communication “outcome sharing” tools, such as Community Dashboards which report, analyze and map patterns of activity.  

The design year will also consider the use of Community Assemblies, and other ad hoc and regular “visioning, planning, implementation and service evaluation” gatherings, as part of flexible but inclusive Four Season communication calendar cooperation among community anchor institutions.  Community assemblies, which have developed over the years from regional planning models for engaging cross-sections of residents, businesses, public agencies and institutions, are effective and credible “low cost, low bureaucracy,” gatherings for feedback, as well as community outreach in local town, school, library, hospital and community college areas. 

Thus, in Illinois there will be needs for involvement of eTeams working with community anchor institution networks in all ten regions. http://broadbandillinois.org/Get-it.html

FirstNet and public safety communications will be one topic at Illinois Broadband Deployment Council on July 20, beginning with learning more about the statewide leadership, coordination and the grant application process. http://broadbandillinois.org/calendar/29

Partnership for a Connected Illinois, as staff for BDC and working through 10 DCEO regions, is ready to assist Illinois communities and public safety agencies in getting the best return on this key Federal investment in integrated and interoperable public safety communications.

Tags: Community Anchor Institutions, government, grant, public safety

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Partnership for a Connected Illinois 1337 Wabash Ave. Springfield, IL 62704 Phone: (217) 886-4228 Fax: (217) 718-4546 info@broadbandillinois.org