Emergency wireless net rushed

NCS Cellular Priority Services program

Continuing his push to use technology for homeland security, Richard Clarke today announced that the government will speed up a priority cellular network for emergency and national security personnel.

Clarke, the new cyberspace security adviser, is working with the manager of the National Communications System to accelerate the deployment of a priority access system for wireless communications across the United States.

The NCS plans to deploy the wireless system in certain metropolitan areas soon, and expand the system to cover the entire country in the future, according to the announcement.

The NCS has been working on this wireless network since 1995. Since then, officials have named the program the Cellular Priority Services (CPS) network and have been working with industry on short-term solutions such as channel reservation, a capability that exists today.

However, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks—and the congestion on cellular networks in the New York City and Washington, D.C., areas that morning -- underlined the need for the priority network to be up and running as soon as possible, Clarke said in a statement.

"It is essential that we work with industry to deploy priority access service for use in crisis situations as soon as possible," he said.

The government already has a priority system for landline communications, called the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service. That service was used Sept. 11 and performed well, enabling emergency and national security personnel to get through to each other when they needed to, Brenton Greene, the NCS deputy manager, told Federal Computer Week in September.

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