Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

Blog archive

U.S. first responder communications still a mess

Among all of the stories about Twitter and Facebook affecting the response to the Haiti earthquake, here’s a sobering reminder of how basic interoperable communications among first responders in the U.S. is still a myth, a problem that should have been sorted out a long time ago.

In an op-ed in The Hill retired Navy Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett points out that if a similar earthquake were to strike the United States, we’d be in a parlous situation. Decades after the fact was pointed out, and despite all of the public breast-beating that’s been spent on the issue, the U.S. is still without a public safety broadband wireless network.

And that’s even after the tragedies of the 2001 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina glaringly illustrated the disastrous consequences of the lack of such communications.

Representatives of America’s public safety officials recently visited Congress to push for more spectrum that could be used to create a national public safety network. Once again, however, they are up against commercial interests who are lobbying for public spectrum to be allocated to them to relieve them of the squeeze on their networks.

Barnett know whereof he speaks, by the way: He’s the Federal Communications Commission’s chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. The FCC has been conducting a series of broad-ranging hearings on how to improve U.S. broadband communications.

Posted by Brian Robinson on Jan 21, 2010 at 12:19 PM


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Reader comments

Mon, Jan 25, 2010

That's what you get when the vendors are in the driver seat. With the adoption of TETRA, we would have been years further along. Adding to the calamity, the cost of building out broadband vs. LMR infrastructure is prohibitive. It's not only the spectrum, it's the capacity that needs to be put on the ground, that would exceed one order of magnitude beyond an LMR buildout. Great again for the vendors to push equipment, assuming you can find someone to foot the bill.

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