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June 15, 2010
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Group aims to scrap FCC's emergency communications network plan

Wants wireless network to be run by public safety organizations, without a commerical partner

By PoliceOne Staff

Public safety groups are working to scrap an FCC plan that would give police and firefighters a nationwide wireless communications network.

That’s not to say they don’t want the airwaves; they do. What they oppose are the specifics of the plan, which would auction off the proposed network to a commercial wireless carrier that would then help to build and operate it alongside law enforcement.

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The Public Safety Alliance has launched an advertising campaign aimed at persuading Congress to instead add the airwaves to a spectrum that its members already control. That way police and fire departments could operate without a commercial partner.

The issue has played out amid steady debate in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when Congress mandated a public safety communications network.

The estimated cost of the project is $6.5 billion and the FFC fears that without the aid of a corporate partner it could rise by $9 billion.

The FCC’s ultimate goal is to bring down the cost of public safety communications devices and allow law enforcement and first responders to communicate with greater ease. Rather than having to communicate using special devices that cost thousands of dollars, an officer could relay information quickly through his/her BlackBerry or iPhone.

Calls for the communications network heightened after Hurricane Katrina and the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, both of which revealed the lackluster communications abilities of emergency responders and law enforcement.

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