EXTRA – Co-ops Offer Assistance on Broadband

Electric cooperatives have offered to work with public safety officials across the nation as these officials set out to create a single interoperable public safety broadband network.

“As owners and operators of facilities, networks and infrastructure, we stand ready to assist” in the effort, NRECA said in a filing with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative and National Telecommunications Cooperative Association joined in the response to a May 1 request for information by NTIA, a Commerce Department agency.

The public safety network, the First Responder Network Authority—FirstNet—was mandated in legislation enacted earlier this year. State and local implementation grants from NTIA will be used to help set it up.

The rural commenters noted that their members have successfully partnered with public safety entities in several states. They could identify current infrastructure that might be available to be leveraged into FirstNet, as well as locations where new or upgraded facilities need to be located, the parties told NTIA.

The national scope of the three organizations is another plus, they said. The associations constantly survey members on a variety of issues, while members regularly share data and information on best practices and lessons learned.

“We believe this scope and capability could be very helpful to NTIA and FirstNet in carrying out its mission,” NRECA and its co-filers suggested.

For these reasons, and many others, the groups encouraged the states to include utilities, particularly rural electric co-ops and rural telecom companies, “as early as possible in the planning stages to create and operate FirstNet.”

The groups recommended that a workshop be conducted early in the process where states, along with electric utilities and/or telecom companies with which they have partnered, could share lessons learned and recommendations going forward.

“In working together with our sister rural organizations, we were guided by a resolution passed at NRECA’s 2012 annual meeting,” said Martha Duggan, senior principal for regulatory affairs.

The resolution urges exploration of “a wide range of solutions and support” for electric co-ops that choose to procure advanced telecom services for their communities, she noted.

Source: ECT.coop, a publication of the NRECA