At a forum hosted last Friday by the FCC’s Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau, interoperability was touted as the single most important element needed for successful operation of a nationwide public safety broadband network in the 700 MHz D-block, whether that network is operated in conjunction with a commercial licensee or independently by public safety entities. FCC Public Safety Bureau Chief Jamie Barnett chaired the forum, as leaders in Congress continue to advance legislation that would allocate D-block frequencies directly to public safety. If signed into law, such a measure would prevent the FCC from following through on its plan to auction a D-block license to a commercial wireless entity that would share its nationwide network with public safety users. Notwithstanding the ongoing debate in Congress, Barnett told forum participants that “interoperability has to be first in line” and that every element involved in the public safety network “has to be subordinated to [interoperability] or make sure it supports interoperability, whether that’s governance, funding, structure, architecture.” Barnett also stressed that the public safety network must be “technically and commercially viable so that it will not be cost prohibitive to public safety agencies with limited resources,” as he added that such a network should “[keep] pace with evolving technologies.” While citing the public safety community’s “strong preference” for a single, nationwide network instead of a “network of networks,” Harlin McEwen, the chairman of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust, argued “there has to be a pool of funding that ensures that every piece of this nationwide network is refreshed and kept in synch” or “you’ll have not interoperability from the beginning.” With respect to network architecture, Dennis Martinez of the Harris RF Communications Group noted that the fourth-generation long term evolution endorsed as the standard of choice for the nationwide public safety network “is where we’re going to enable interoperability.”