As AWARE previously reported, the Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Julius Genachowski, appointed David Turetsky as the Commission’s new Chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau in May 2012. Given this recent transition, we thought it would be a good opportunity to explore what priorities Chief Turetsky has for public safety communications.
To AWARE’s knowledge, Chief Turetsky has not issued a formal public statement regarding his priorities as Bureau Chief, but Turetsky’s recent speeches and statements to the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Committee highlight several probable areas of priority for Turetsky. Turetsky has reminded his audiences of the FCC’s core mission of promoting “safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communications” and in each of his speeches and statements, has touched upon the following initiatives undertaken by the FCC to support this mission:
- Improving E-9-1-1 (aka “legacy” 9-1-1)
- Rolling-out Next Generation (NG) 9-1-1
- Rolling-out of Public Safety Broadband
Regarding legacy 9-1-1, Turetsky has highlighted two areas of concern: increasing the resiliency of 9-1-1 emergency services, and improving location accuracy of legacy 9-1-1.
Turetsky has indicated that the FCC is “vigorously pursuing its inquiry into 9-1-1 system outages” as a result of June’s Derecho storm across the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. The storm highlighted issues with the reliability and resiliency of 9-1-1 systems. The storm’s resulting system outages ranged from isolated disruptions of short duration to systemic failures, in particular, in the Northern Virginia and West Virginia areas, due to carrier network failures. In the case of these particular failures, Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) could not receive any 9-1-1 calls, or could not receive the location information necessary to dispatch response services effectively for a duration of up to several days. Turetsky also has noted that the June storm “showed clearly that telecommunications networks lacked needed and vital resiliency…For various lengths of time, millions lost the ability to reach 9-1-1 operators…” and “…some found their wireless service unavailable or their calls blocked”. The FCC also has issued a public notice to collect additional information regarding other 9-1-1 outages in the U.S., and expects its inquiries will result is data that can be applied to enhance the reliability and resiliency of 9-1-1 services in the U.S. moving forward.
Turetsky also has addressed improving legacy 9-1-1’s location accuracy, highlighting the fact that FCC now requires wireless carriers to meet location accuracy standards at the county level, to test accuracy results periodically, and to share results with PSAPs, state 911 offices, and the FCC.
Regarding NG9-1-1, Turetsky pointed to progress on Commissioner Genachowski’s five-element roadmap to support the development and deployment of NG9-1-1, which would enable the public to make voice, text, or video emergency calls from any communications device using Internet Protocol-based networks. At a high level, Commissioner Genachowski’s five elements include:
- Providing location accuracy automatically in NG9-1-1
- Allowing the public to send text, photo, video and other data to PSAPs
- Facilitating development and implementation of NG9-1-1 technical standards
- Developing a funding framework for NG9-1-1
- Developing a NG9-1-1 governance framework
Regarding #2, Turetsky noted that mediums of communication like text and video should serve only as a limited alternative to voice, not a substitute. Turetsky underscored the need to educate the public regarding the limited use of non-voice 9-1-1 communications only in circumstances in which voice communication is not possible or could endanger the caller (e.g., during the Virginia Tech shooting), and to enhance accessibility to 9-1-1 for Americans with disabilities, such as hearing or speech impairments.
Regarding #4, Turetsky noted that while the FCC could not fund NG911 adoption by state and local authorities directly, the FCC could and is developing a comprehensive study of NG911 costs and further noted that Congress has authorized $115 million in grant funding to state and local authorities for NG911 adoption-related activities using funds from FCC incentive auction revenues.
Regarding #5, Turetsky noted that no jurisdiction or agency can adopt NG911 in a vacuum and coordination at the local, state, and Federal levels is essential to this process.
Turetsky has called attention to text-to-9-1-1 trials using SMS in Iowa; North Carolina; and Vermont. He has also highlighted that both Verizon and AT&T have announced plans to deploy an SMS-to-9-1-1 capability throughout their networks by 2013, and that the FCC is considering proposal of a regulatory framework and timetable for deployment of text-to-911 by all wireless carriers.
Public Safety Broadband
Regarding Public Safety Broadband, which comes into effect as a result of the Public Safety Spectrum Act of February 2012, Turetsky highlighted relevant deadlines and activities currently being undertaken by the new public safety broadband network authority, FirstNet. The FCC established a Technical Advisory Board for First Responder Interoperability to identify minimum requirements for the network and then provided these requirements to FirstNet. FirstNet is now mandated to establish the nationwide public safety broadband network.
A January 1, 2013 narrowbanding deadline for VHF and UHF spectrum also is approaching quickly. This narrowbanding activity will consolidate existing public safety narrowband voice allocations to the upper half of the 700 MHz public safety band. The FCC intends to updates its rules for the 700 MHz public safety band to ensure compatibility of all licensees in the band. The FCC also will grant FirstNet a license for the combined 22 MHz of spectrum dedicated for broadband use. Jurisdictions seeking early deployment of public safety broadband can use the Special Temporary Authority (STA) process the FCC developed through its July 31 order. While Turetsky has indicated that the STA criteria are strict, it does serve to provide a clear and expedient path for the FCC to evaluate jurisdictions’ requests for early deployment as a result of special circumstances and extraordinary need.
Suggestions for Additional Priorities
AWARE acknowledges Chief Turetsky’s consistent messaging regarding his bureau’s current priorities and the great value of progress being made in these areas. Further, these priorities address many of the issues that concern alert originators across the U.S. at this time. In a follow-up article this week, we will offer some thoughts on other focus areas for Chief Turetsky that align with the FCC’s mission of safekeeping life and property by bolstering alert and warning capabilities in the U.S. through the enhancement of wire and radio communications and related policies.
We want your input to this next piece: What do you think the priorities should be for Chief Turetsky?