Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the NPSBN?

Mandated through federal legislation, the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) is an interoperable nationwide high-speed broadband network dedicated to public safety that is capable of withstanding natural and manmade disasters.

 

Who will be allowed to access the network?

The network is dedicated to public safety. Entities that support public safety—such as utility companies and transportation entities—will be able to access the network as part of their public safety support mission.

 

How will the network support public safety responders?

The network will provide public safety responders with prioritized, real-time access to their mission-critical data during incident response. Currently, public safety agencies do not have prioritized access on commericial networks. As was the case during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, commercial networks can become overwhelmed during major incidents, which limits public safety’s ability to access data. The NPSBN also will increase access to bandwidth that is capable of supporting sophisticated data applications, such as streaming video, geo-spatial applications, telemetry, computer-aided dispatch (CAD) access, mobile field reporting, etc.

 

Who will build the network and when will it be available?

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is charged with overseeing the construction of the network. FirstNet will possess the license to the 20 MHz of radio spectrum that has been dedicated to the network, and FirstNet also will own the network core. The radio access network (RAN) portion of the network—consisting of all of the communication sites (e.g., towers) and the radio and data transportation components associated with them—will either be built by FirstNet or the state. FirstNet will develop a deployment plan for each state. That plan will be delivered to the governor, who then has 90 days to decide whether FirstNet will build the RAN, or the state will assume the responsibility of construction and operation of the RAN. This is referred to as the “opt-in/opt-out” decision.

If the governor decides that Michigan will assume this responsibility, then the state must submit a plan to the FCC for approval; once the plan is approved, the state can apply to NTIA for grant funding. The exact date that the network will be available for use is unknown; however, the Act expires at the end of December, 2022.

 

How much will it cost, and who is responsible for the cost?

The $7 billion in funding included in the Act for the entire network is not nearly enough to build a network of this size and scope. FirstNet is mandated to develop a self-sustaining business model for network construction and operation. FirstNet will bear the cost of constructing the network core, and the RAN in Michigan, unless the governor chooses to “opt-out”; then the state would bear the cost and responsibility of constructing the RAN. In either case, individual agencies choosing to use the network would be responsible for purchasing their data devices (i.e., cellular phones, tablets, and laptops) and paying a subscription fee for each device, similar to subscription fees for commercial networks. The fees would be set by FirstNet or the state (if it opts out), anticipating that charges would be competitive with current commercial wireless fees. Any revenues the state generates from the network must be put back into the network. Any revenues produced above and beyond those necessary to operate and sustain the network must be sent to FirstNet for use in the nationwide network. States are not permitted to use funds generated from the network toward their general fund, or any other purpose outside of the network.

 

Will the NPSBN replace my public safety land mobile radio (LMR) system?

No. While there will be voice communication capability when the NPSBN is introduced, the quality will not be “mission critical,” which public safety agencies require for their life-safety missions. Mission-critical communications include capabilities such as point-to-multipoint communication and device-to-device direct communication when the user is not connected to a network. These capabilities are not yet part of the selected long-term evolution (LTE) technology platform. It is not anticipated that the network will have mission-critical communication capabilities for the foreseeable future, so existing public safety LMR systems must continue to be maintained. The NPSBN will supplement LMR communications for access to mission-critical data.

 

Will I have to use the network?

No. There is absolutely no mandate for any agency to adopt and utilize the network.

 

Who is planning the network within the state, and what will my agency need to provide?

There are various data elements that need to be collected from around the state for network planning. Michigan has established the MiPSB Team to collect the data, interface with FirstNet, and evaluate the FirstNet offering to advise and assist the governor in making the opt-in/opt-out decision. The MiPSB Team will identify all public safety agencies in the state and collect the specific data requested by FirstNet, which includes: how public safety currently uses wireless communications; where coverage is needed; and who should be allowed to use the network in support of public safety. This allows the MiPSB Team to provide updates on the progress of the network build-out and to ensure that FirstNet is able to contact each agency to determine if they want to join once the network is operational. Data will be collected and provided to FirstNet through stakeholder meetings and online surveys.