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A Secure Public Safety Broadband Network

by: Kurian Jacob, Electronics Engineer, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

April 11, 2011

It clearly is important to have a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network for the nation’s first responders.  Interoperable communications during incidents such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katharina, would have improved the rescue efforts by many fold.  To establish a first baseline to ensure nationwide interoperability for public safety broadband communications, in the Third Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Interoperability Order and NPRM), the Commission mandated LTE as a common technology platform and asked for comment on a range of technical issues.
If the public safety network is not secured, the sensitive information it carries could be compromised by intruders which may lead to wide-ranging disasters. As recognized in the Interoperable Order and NPRM, it is essential that the information it transports be secure on an end-to-end basis.  Although having LTE as the common technology alone won’t ensure that the network is secure, it does provide a platform for having a common set of security features.
Accordingly, in the Interoperability Order and NPRM we are looking for inputs on mandating the optional security features of LTE.  And we are also trying to understand whether these security features are sufficient to ensure that the information carried over the public safety broadband network will be secure or if additional steps must be taken.  We look forward to reviewing the comments on this important issue.

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