The Challenges and Opportunities for Public Safety Communications: The Adams County Case Study

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Executive Summary On September 23, 2011, the Silicon Flatirons Center brought together academics, lawyers, and members of the public safety communications industry to discuss the challenges and benefits of implementing a 21st century nationwide wireless broadband public safety network that is envisioned by the National Broadband Plan. This discussion was held at the University of Colorado School of Law, and it was moderated by Phil Weiser, Executive Director of the Silicon Flatirons Center and Dean of the University of Colorado School of Law, and Dale Hatfield, Silicon Flatirons Senior Fellow and University of Colorado Adjunct Professor. The discussion addressed the implementation of a 21st century broadband public safety communications network through study and dialogue surrounding the development of a broadband public safety network in Adams County, Colorado. The roundtable began with an overview of the developments in Adams County, Colorado and the state of current public safety communications networks generally. Participants analyzed the deficit in public safety communication technology in comparison to the commercial markets, and they discussed the many advantages of an interoperable broadband public safety communications network over current public safety communications networks. Through the lens of the developments in Adams County, participants discussed the benefits of a broadband network, particularly the efficiencies evident in a fully broadband system. Despite the many benefits, the discussion also addressed numerous challenges associated with the development and implementation of a broadband public safety communications network. These challenges included governance, funding, technological challenges (such as the inability of LTE technology to support mission-critical simplex voice), and sustainability. Participants suggested numerous solutions for the future development of broadband public safety communications networks, and were optimistic about their success. If these challenges can be overcome, public safety will reap the benefits of a nationwide interoperable public safety network.

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