One of the most important broadband initiatives of the Obama Administration is undoubtedly the construction of an interoperable broadband public safety network. The President has been a strong advocate for not only building such a network - but also for funding the network, and ensuring that the public safety community is an active partner in the process.
Initial support and a national strategy for using broadband came from the National Broadband Plan, which clearly emphasized the importance of broadband for public safety.
The following summary articulates the Obama administration's plan for using broadband for public safety:Broadband can help public safety personnel prevent emergencies and respond swiftly when they occur. Broadband can also provide the public with new ways of calling for help and receiving emergency information.
A cutting-edge public safety communications system uses broadband technologies:
•To allow first responders anywhere in the nation to send and receive critical voice, video and data to save lives, reduce injuries and prevent acts of crime and terror.
•To ensure all Americans can access emergency services quickly and send and receive vital information, regardless of how it is transmitted.
•To revolutionize the way Americans are notified about emergencies and disasters so they receive information vital to their safety.
•To reduce threats to e-commerce and other Internet-based applications by ensuring the security of the nation's broadband networks.
Unfortunately, the United States has not yet realized the potential of broadband to enhance public safety.Today, first responders from different jurisdictions and agencies often cannot communicate during emergencies. Emergency 911 systems still operate on circuit-switched networks. Similarly, federal, Tribal, state and local governments use outdated alerting systems to inform the public during emergencies.
The United States also faces threats to the resiliency and cybersecurity of its networks. As the world moves online, America's digital borders are not nearly as secure as its physical borders.
The country must do better. In a broadband world, there is a unique opportunity to achieve a comprehensive vision for enhancing the safety and security of the American people. Careful planning and strong commitment could create a cutting-edge public safety communications system to allow first responders anywhere in the nation to communicate with each other, sending and receiving critical voice, video and data to save lives, reduce injuries and prevent acts of crime and terror.
Broadband can also make 911 and emergency alert systems more capable, allowing for better protection of lives and property. For example, with broadband, 911 call centers (also known as public safety answering points or PSAPs) could receive text, pictures and videos from the public and relay them to first responders. Similarly, the government could use broadband networks to disseminate vital information to the public during emergencies in multiple formats and languages.
Finally, well-structured and well-protected broadband networks could reduce threats to Internet-based applications. The proliferation of Internet Protocol (IP)-based communications requires stronger cybersecurity. Disasters and pandemics can lead to sudden disruptions of normal IP traffic flows. As a result, broadband communications networks must be held to high standards of reliability, resiliency and security.