Fighting for a national interoperable public safety communications network
The FCC still wants to auction off the D-Block to a commercial wireless carrier but the Public Safety Alliance, APCO, and others are gaining steam in opposition
The Public Safety Alliance — an organization headed by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and consisting of members of the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Emergency Management Association, and dozens of others — late last week issued a press release blasting a recent FCC whitepaper that sought to justify another attempt to auction off the D-Block to a commercial carrier. Frequent readers of this space will recall that the first attempt at such an auction (in Spring 2008) was a colossal failure, and that public safety officials have recently been seeking to have the D-Block of the 700 MHz band allocated directly to them.
The FCC document, entitled “The Public Safety Nationwide Interoperable Broadband Network: A New Model for Capacity, Performance and Cost” is almost cynical in its conclusion that “the 10 megahertz of dedicated spectrum allocated to public safety in the 700 MHz band for broadband communications provides more than the required capacity for day-to-day communications.”
Enter, The PSA
Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing time and again and expecting a different result. Still, the FCC remains set on auctioning the D-Block to one or more wireless carrier companies (none of which showed even a stitch of interest in buying this swath of bandwidth last time around). The assumption is that those commercial enterprises would turn around and give first responders “priority access” to that spectrum space when emergency networks are overwhelmed with traffic — such as might happen in a major natural disaster or large-scale terrorist attack.
“The Commission studied three tragic moderately sized real disasters in its white paper,” concluded the PSA whitepaper. “However, it failed to utilize data from more extensive real world situations like the attacks in New York on 9/11 or from Hurricane Katrina. The public safety community is left to wonder if anything has been learned from these disasters.”
How You Can Take Action
International Association of Fire Chiefs President and PSA spokesperson Jeff Johnson said, “Time is running out for Congress and the Administration to pass and enact into law the legislation necessary to fund the national architecture and infrastructure build out with the full 20 MHz of adequate spectrum for public safety, to include allocation of the D Block. We continue to urge Congress and the Administration to join with the overwhelming majority of our local and state leaders, and first responders, by actively advocating for allocation of the D Block to public safety, and moving to prohibit the FCC from any effort to rush an auction of this critical national asset.”
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