Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

Blog archive

It's put-up time for the emergency communications network

It seems the government will try again to build a nationwide public safety communications network, at least if Congress agrees with recommendations the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will make in a couple of weeks in its highly anticipated broadband plan.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski favors giving first responders access to the full 700 MHz band of the wireless spectrum, which he figures will allow the government to build the network at a cost of between $16 billion and $18 billion.

This is the second time in the past few years that government has tried to get such a network running. Back in 2008, the FCC auctioned off several blocks of the 700 MHz space to private industry for just under $20 billion. But the auction of so-called D block spectrum that would have gone for the emergency communications network failed, for a variety of reasons.

Genachowski apparently wants a re-auction of the D block spectrum, which would be allocated specifically for first responders. But he also wants them to be able to share the entire 700 MHz with other advanced wireless service providers through roaming and other arrangements.

It’s way past time that the United States had this kind of network. As has been pointed out, if the Haiti earthquake happened in the U.S. the lack of these communications would be catastrophic.

Genachowski makes a good point that it’s very unlikely that private industry will come up with any of the money for this network, so it’s up to the government. However, the problem there is the same as it’s been since Sept. 11, 2001 and even before: When pushed, government is reluctant to spend the money.

Everyone talks a good game and is quick to acknowledge emergency workers as the heroes they are. Let’s see if this time the put-up is there.

Posted by Brian Robinson on Feb 25, 2010 at 9:03 AM


Reader Comments

Fri, Feb 26, 2010

The taxpayers easily spend that much now, on the infrastructure for the thousands of overlapping and competing public safety agencies. As the various states and cities go broke, they are starting to realize that we have way too many public safety agencies, each way too jealous of protecting their own little area of turf. Perhaps if the states and the feds said 'one FD and one PD per county', the problem would become something that could actually be handled. Some state and areas of states have moved toward regionalizing common-service things like communications support, but as long as you have tiny towns and villages without the money or will to join in, you will never have fully interoperable comms.

Fri, Feb 26, 2010 Don Arizona

The Universsal Service Fund was established years ago to provide funds to pay for the installation of lines and equipment necessary to provide telephone service to rual areas of the US. I understand that money from this fund is being used to provide cellular phones to low income individuals. The use of these funds in this manner is just plain wrong. These funds could and should be used to fund the broadband service which is the subject of this article.

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