Grants to Fund Broadband Equipment or Systems
On June 15, 2012, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Office of Emergency Communcations (OEC) released a DHS Information Bulletin (IB) to clarify the use of DHS/FEMA Public Safety grant funds for broadband related expenditures and investment. The IB was in response to the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 and the suspension of Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) ARRA grant funds.
What is the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012?
Authorizes the creation of a nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) in the 700 MHz spectrum band (based on a single, national network architecture)
Designates a single licensee – the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) – to manage the building, deployment, and operation of the network
Authorizes FirstNet to hold the 700 MHz spectrum license for the network, which will be based on commercial standards for the Long Term Evolution (LTE) service and which will evolve with technological advancements
What does this mean for Public Safety?
The DHS IB states: "Until the network architecture and the technical requirements are established, and until grantees have approval from FirstNet to operate in the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum, grantees should not be using FEMA preparedness funding for activities that may not support the NPSBN deployment (e.g., large-scale acquisition and deployment of LTE equipment and systems). FEMA GPD is concerned that if grantees are allowed to continue to invest in broadband technologies before FirstNet establishes technical requirements for the network, grantee spending may result in stranded (or stovepiped) investments (that is, equipment that cannot be integrated into the NPSBN because it is incompatible with the network architecture)."
Grantees may direct funding toward low-risk broadband investments, including, but not limited to:
Planning for broadband investments, including (but not limited to) developing assessments of existing infrastructure, and engaging the whole community in planning and defining needs
Analyzing/transitioning existing narrowband LMR systems currently deployed in the broadband public safety spectrum
Site upgrades: Documenting site capabilities, conducting tower analysis, assessing site upgrades and needs
Backhaul: Upgrading connectivity capabilities for public safety broadband including network capacity planning and modeling
Guidance for Grantees Not Holding FCC Waivers:
Grantees that do not have authority to operate in the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum (e.g., via FCC regulatory action and/or agreement with FirstNet) should not submit requests for, and will not be permitted to use any FEMA preparedness funding for broadband acquisitions and deployments until they have authority to operate in the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum. The Act requires the FCC to grant FirstNet a single license for use of the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum. However, until FirstNet develops final technical and operational requirements for the nationwide network, it is difficult to determine whether broadband-related investments will comply with them, or will integrate into the nationwide network. Therefore, until FirstNet issues such requirements and grantees have obtained authority to operate in the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum, grantees should not be submitting requests for, and will not be permitted to use, FEMA preparedness funding for broadband acquisitions and deployments. Holding FCC Waivers (most grantees)
Guidance for Grantees Holding FCC Waivers (21)
All requests submitted by grantees holding FCC waivers to use FEMA preparedness funding for broadband acquisitions and deployments will undergo a thorough Federal review.
Please note: This Information Bulletin applies only to broadband communications projects that will operate in the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum. FEMA GPD will still allow the replacement and/or expansion of existing non-broadband, non-700 MHz LMR systems and other communications investments.
Learn more about the DHS Information Bulletin here: www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=6104