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Briefing Document: Public Networks for Public Safety

May 29, 2012
Berkman Report Release Draft
Report Release   May 29, 2012
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Briefing Document: Public Networks for Public Safety

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society is pleased to announce the publication of a briefing document developed in conjunction with the March 30, 2012, event Public Networks for Public Safety: A Workshop on the Present and Future of Mesh Networking.

This workshop provided a starting point for conversation about whether mesh networks could be adopted within consumer technologies to enhance public safety communications and empower and connect the public while simultaneously improving public safety. Participants in this initial convening, detailed on page 33 of the briefing document, included members of government agencies, academia, the telecommunications industry, and civil society organizations; their helpful inputs were integral to the final version of this document.

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Briefing Document: Public Networks for Public Safety

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This briefing document builds on the dialogue that occurred at this gathering. We begin by sketching a broad overview of mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs) and mesh networks and identify critical technical issues and questions regarding the communications effectiveness of these technologies. Next, we explain how public safety communications relate to mesh and offer a synopsis of current regulations affecting public safety communications. The paper then describes a set of basic use cases that emerged from the workshop. We proceed to map out stakeholders at the technical, regulatory, legal, and social level as well as associated interests, points of connection, and potential challenges. After cataloging select examples and, w here possible, highlighting potential next steps and areas for short term action, we close this document with a summary of key takeaways from the conference. This final section emphasizes shared principles or best practices that might inform participants’ diverse efforts to improve communications affordances for the public and the public safety community.

The Berkman Center thanks all of the workshop attendees both for their participation during the event and for comments offered during the development of this briefing document. Berkman Center Project Coordinator Alicia Solow-Niederman worked closely with Professor Jonathan Zittrain over the course of many months to plan and execute this event as well as to produce this briefing document. Berkman Center Research Assistants Andrew Crocker and Kevin Tsai provided exceptional contributions to this briefing document, and June Casey contributed indispensible assistance with background research for this paper.

The Center is hopeful that this final product will help frame the issues, prompt consideration, and provoke ongoing discussion about the present and future of mesh.

As always, we welcome your feedback.

—The Berkman Center Team

This announcement can be found online at:

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University was founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. For more information, visit

Last updated

June 7, 2012