The events of 9/11 highlighted serious deficiencies in the ability for police and other first responders to communicate with each other between jurisdictions. The subsequent report from the 9/11 Commission strongly recommended that Congress support legislation that would ensure that the spectrum of broadband communications reserved for public safety communications exclusively be expanded from a 10 MHz block to a 20 MHz block.
Public safety officials have worked behind the scenes to enhance emergency communications for a decade now. The results of their efforts were partially realized when Obama signed a bill on February 22, 2012 that included provisions that would create and fund the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). The bill also included provisions for the Department of Commerce to deploy the network through an independent authority known as FirstNet.
Law enforcement officials and other members of FirstNet set aside what is known as the D Block. This is a 10 Megahertz (Mhz) section of the broadband spectrum that is next to the existing 10 MHz block currently used for public safety. Thus, 20 Mhz is now dedicated solely to public safety.
The existence of this dedicated and reliable wireless broadband network for public safety is expected to greatly improve the crime-fighting efforts of law enforcement officials. Officials from different jurisdictions will be able to readily communicate with each other in times of crisis and send real time information to and from the field.
FirstNet goes even further by provisioning for the dedication of broadband bandwith exclusively to public safety professionals. This means local law enforcement agencies should find it much easier to do such things as stream footage of crimes in progress. FirstNet should also enable these agencies to stream footage directly from body cams.
The existence of this broadband network will allow law enforcement the capability to implement technology to fight crime using methods that have yet to be imagined.