The Puerto Rico government has submitted a proposal to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s First Responder Network Authority seeking $1.4 million to develop a public safety broadband network for the island, La Fortaleza’s Chief Information Officer Giancarlo González confirmed Monday.
The network will help police, firefighters, emergency medical service professionals and other public safety officials stay safe and do their jobs. FirstNet, as the network is known for short, has $7 billion available for this project, of which $135 million is being distributed in the planning phase, González said.
“A group already traveled to meet with FirstNet that included representatives from the Department of Transportation and Public Works, Homeland Security and the CIO,” he told this media outlet. “Now we have to wait to see if we can get the funding, which should happen in one or two months.”
The planning phase will get underway once the funding is in place. The process involves a handful of other local agencies such as the Police Department, the University of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, as well as the government’s Public Broadcasting System (WIPR), which will be integrated into a single emergency strategy.
“This is a large-scale project, which is among the top priorities of CIO offices throughout the U.S. mainland and here,” González said.
The FirstNet concept was born in February 2012, when Congress enacted the “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012” laying down the framework to deploy and operate this network that is based on a single, national infrastructure.
FirstNet is an independent authority within NTIA and will hold the spectrum license for the network, and is charged with taking “all actions necessary” to build, deploy, and operate the network, in consultation with Federal, State, tribal and local public safety entities, and other key stakeholders.
Through a grant program, FirstNet will assist state and local government to plan and work with the agency to ensure the network meets wireless public communications needs.
If Puerto Rico gets the initial funding for the planning stage, it would subsequently need between $20 million and $40 million to deploy the islandwide network. The money will be requested in a separate proposal, González said.
“Ideally, this service would enable our security personnel to have better tools to deal with situations. Instead of getting a radio message about an accident, their vehicles should be outfitted with screens so they can get a visual of what actually happened before getting there,” he said.