Improving Public Safety Communications

The lives of first responders and citizens are put at risk when public safety communications systems fail. A nationwide broadband communications network, designed as an integrated infrastructure, would shore up the holes in the existing public safety communications systems.

The move to digital technology, which has prompted the federal government to make plans to transfer premium spectrum – 24 megahertz (MHz) – from analog TV to public safety use in 2009, is an enormous opportunity to obtain the resources that will be needed to build a national broadband network.

Policymakers will have to make a concerted effort to achieve some progress on communication systems for public safety, considering the ineffectiveness of past policy that has led to a system that has failure, cost, spectrum and capability issues.

First responders should have access to multiple systems, as well as a primary system that at the very least supports mission-critical voice communications. Secondary systems to support first responders could involve cellular carriers, a nationwide commercial carrier, municipal infrastructure, ad hoc networks and satellite networks.

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