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What Dedicated Broadband Can Do for Public Safety

Thursday, October 13, 2016 0:05
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Fifteen years after 9/11, America’s first responders continue to be hampered by wireless communications systems that are incompatible and unreliable. As a result, they are often unable to share critical information. This compromises their effectiveness and jeopardizes their lives and those of the citizens they serve.

As technology has evolved, first responders have come to rely on commercial wireless services to share video and other important data. These services are woefully inadequate to address the mission-critical communications needs of our public safety agencies.

The good news is that a key recommendation of the 9-11 Commission – to create a dedicated public safety network – is finally within sight. In 2012, Congress set aside the spectrum and created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to establish, operate and maintain an interoperable broadband LTE network dedicated to public safety. Soon, FirstNet will select its commercial partner to build and operate this network.

Some have questioned the need for FirstNet, asserting that as commercial networks have proliferated, they can now adequately serve public safety. I contend, however, that a dedicated network is long overdue. Public safety has historically been an afterthought for established network carriers, whose primary focus is to serve their hundreds of millions of individual and business customers in the most populated areas. As a result, during emergencies and times of crisis – when first responders most need access to reliable communication services – they must compete with everyone else for access to bandwidth. And when emergencies arise in less populated areas, there’s often no service at all.

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