DHS/FEMA Partially Suspends Grants for Public-Safety Broadband (6/28/12)
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released guidance regarding the use of DHS/FEMA grant funds for broadband-related expenditures and investments in the 700 MHz public-safety broadband spectrum.
To ensure consistency across the federal government, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is partially suspending approval of funding for certain broadband investments that will operate in the 700 MHz public-safety broadband spectrum until the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) can establish the nationwide network technical requirements and architecture. FirstNet is scheduled to be in place by Aug. 22.
While some broadband activities (e.g., acquisition, deployment) are temporarily restricted under this notice, grantees may continue to apply grant funds toward low-risk broadband activities and other emergency communications and homeland security needs. FEMA will still allow the replacement and/or expansion of existing non-broadband, non-700 MHz LMR systems and other communications investments.
The bulletin was developed in response to enactment of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. In addition, in May, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) suspended activities on seven public-safety demonstration projects funded under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). Some of these projects may also be supported with FEMA preparedness funding.
“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 nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment such as large-scale acquisition and deployment of Long Term Evolution (LTE) equipment and systems,” the bulletin said. “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 — equipment that cannot be integrated into the NPSBN because it is incompatible with the network architecture. Indeed, the resulting facilities might require the diversion of even more funding to integrate them into the nationwide architecture.”
Grantees that don’t have authority to operate in the 700 MHz public-safety broadband spectrum should not submit requests for, and will not be permitted to use, FEMA preparedness funding for broadband-related acquisition and deployment until they have such authority to operate in the spectrum.
The information bulletin is titled “Use of DHS/FEMA Public Safety Grant Funds for Broadband-Related Expenditures and Investments.” The full bulletin is available here.
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