Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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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


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