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Verizon to Build Own Public Safety Network

It looks like first responders will get a second network to help speed communications in times of emergency.

It is not calling it SecondNet, but Verizon says it is planning to build and operate a core public safety communications network--similar to the FirstNet interoperable public safety communications network being managed by AT&T, which won the 25-year, multibillion dollar, contract to build and maintain the network, and funded by FCC spectrum proceeds.

Verizon said Wednesday (Aug. 16) that the new network will operate separately from its commercial core network and provide public safety priority access to its nationwide network (of 2.4 million square miles of 4G LTE) for priority access or preemption at times of emergency at no charge, as AT&T is doing with FirstNet. Verizon said it will also invest in new push-to-talk Plus service.

In comments on the procedures for states' ability to opt out of the FirstNet plan, Verizon told the FCC that it would "provide reliable and innovative public safety communications services to state and local governments irrespective of whether states choose to opt out of the FirstNet network."

It said the FCC should provide states the opportunity to work with another partner, like Verizon,  "to build and operate their own network core, which includes data centers and systems used to interconnect users to each other and to other public networks, as long as it is interoperable with  FirstNet’s nationwide network."

Verizon said using the Verizon network does not require states to opt out of FirstNet, however. It also points out that it doesn not require the use of any federal funds--as does FirstNet--and doesn't require states to invest in their own network deployments.

Verizon was clearly seeing value added in its service, however. “We’re making the investments necessary to give public safety access to the best possible network coverage, reliability and capability, when and where they need it,” said Michael Maiorana, sVP for Verizon. “Our public safety network will provide a comprehensive and cost-effective solution for public safety, and we’ll continue working to offer first responders the network reliability and access to innovative services they need to keep our communities safe.”

"The creation of this dedicated public safety network core will be fully funded by Verizon. We will also make available multi-band devices that will provide access to Band 14 spectrum and enable full interoperability with any Band 14 radio access networks (RANs) deployed by FirstNet," said Verizon.

“We’re making an investment in the public safety officials that keep our cities, communities and neighbors safe,” said John Stratton, Verizon EVP and president of global operations, in a statement. “Support for public safety is in our company’s DNA and our commitment to them never waivers.”

An interoperable nationwide public safety broadband network was recommended by the 9/11 Commission after communications issues with first responders during those attacks and their aftermath.

A FirstNet spokesperson responded with a strong defense of the network it is already putting in place.

"FirstNet has consulted closely with public safety as a partner to develop this network," said the spokesperson. "Thanks to their input, we are now delivering first responders a compelling network solution they’ve never had before -  which includes true priority today - and we will deliver them ruthless preemption, a dedicated and encrypted public safety core network with local control capabilities, a dedicated FirstNet Public Safety Security Operations Center and public safety grade customer care.  These services are unmatched and unique to public safety, and that is why we are seeing so much momentum with the FirstNet Network in the states and territories.

With Kansas’ opt-in decision yesterday, we are up to 13 states/1 territory. Two of those states explored alternative options through an RFP/RFI process in their state before deciding to join FirstNet."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.