FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
Remarks on a Nationwide Public Safety Network
As Prepared for Delivery
The White House
June 16, 2011
Thank you, Vice President Biden, for your longtime leadership on public safety issues.
Thanks to the work of people in this room, and Congressional leaders like Senators
Rockefeller and Hutchison and Representatives Upton, Walden, Eshoo, and Waxman, we
are closer than ever to achieving the vital goal of funding and building a nationwide
interoperable communications network for our first responders.
It's been almost 10 years since 9/11, and seven years since the 9/11 Commission urged
action to ensure that police, firefighters and other first responders can communicate over
an interoperable network.
The communications world has changed dramatically since 9/11. People then barely
used text messaging; only a tiny percentage of cell phones had cameras; few mobile
phones had broadband Internet access; and today's vibrant apps landscape was years from
The unfortunate truth is that the capability of our emergency response communications
hasn't kept pace with commercial innovation hasn't kept pace with what ordinary
people and businesses now do every day with communications devices.
Our first responders don't have an interoperable mobile broadband network.
Our 9-1-1 systems can't handle text messages or pictures or videos from mobile phones.
That's why in the FCC's National Broadband Plan, public safety recommendation number
one was that a public safety mobile broadband network finally be funded and built.
That's why everyone here made this a vital priority.
The challenges to progress have been real, but enough is enough.
The FCC stands ready to serve as a resource to our colleagues across government and in
the public safety community.
We've already taken actions within our power to advance public safety communications.
With input from the public safety community, we've helped establish a framework for an
interoperable network, including adopting a common air interface for such a network.
We've authorized over twenty jurisdictions for early deployment of the public safety
broadband network, and the NTIA has provided funding to many of them.
We recently announced the accelerated deployment of a new national emergency alert
system PLAN which will enable consumers to have emergency alerts sent directly to
their mobile phones.
And we're ramping up our work on next generation 9-1-1.
I applaud the Senate Commerce Committee for its strong bipartisan action two weeks ago
to move forward with a public safety mobile broadband network and with incentive
auctions to free up new spectrum for commercial use and to raise significant amounts of
The timing is right. With the rollout of commercial 4G wireless, we have an opportunity
to build a resilient and hardened mobile broadband network for first responders at
significantly lower cost than if we wait.
But we need to act not just because we'll save money. We need to act because it will
Imagine major hurricanes or wildfires, like the one currently devastating Eastern Arizona,
that require backup assistance from emergency personnel in neighboring states. If we
act, first responders from different jurisdictions will be able to better coordinate their
response, improving results on the ground, saving lives.
Imagine your 19-year-old son gets in a car accident. If we act, he or someone else in the
car would be able to send pictures of his injuries and the scene to 9-1-1, which EMTs
could review in advance. Once on scene, the EMTs could send critical information back
to hospitals, including on-site scans and diagnostic information, increasing his odds of
Imagine a firefighter arriving at a burning building trying to decide the best point of
entry. If we act, that firefighter will be able to download building plans over a mobile
network that is resilient and reliable.
To get a new public safety network built, there are still tough issues to work through, and
we may not agree on every detail.
But we all agree on the need for legislative action. We agree on the need to resolve open
issues collaboratively and quickly. And we agree on the vital importance of finally
funding and building a mobile broadband public safety network for our first responders.
Working together with focus and energy, we can deliver for the public what they have
every right to expect: a public safety communications network that harnesses modern
technology to protect safety and save lives.
I look forward to working with all stakeholders, the public safety community, our federal
partners and members of Congress to get this done.