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NYT: 9 Years After 9/11, Public Safety Radio Is Not Ready

In today’s New York Times is an article with extensive quotes from FCC/PSHSB Chief James A. Barnett. It starts with “The inability of most firefighters and police officers to talk to each other on their radios on Sept. 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center — one of the most vexing problems on that day nine years ago — still has not been completely resolved.” A clear summary of the status quo and the inability of the previous FCC management to address this key issue.

Adm Barnett is quoted telling a Congressional hearing

“For a brief moment in time, a solution is readily within reach. Unless we embark on a comprehensive plan now, including public funding, America will not be able to afford a nationwide, interoperable public safety network.”

It then describes how the public safety establishment, no doubt with the manipulation of certain industry players, are saying the problem is just getting them enough spectrum. As an observer of this mess for 30 years, this sound very familiar. Even back after the 1982 Air Florida crash public safety was being manipulated by industry players to demand more spectrum as solution to interoperability problems. Even a casual observer can see it hasn’t worked! The public safety Tower of Babel has just added more layers of noninteroperability!

Previously, we have described here the analogy to the Eisenhower-era Interstate Highway System where a common network of roads was built by providing federal funding and basic design controls. States did not have to accept the money and hence retained their 10th Amendment rights.

Lest you think I am unkind criticizing industry manipulation of public safety officials, the Times has this quote from Deputy Chief Charles F. Dowd of the New York Police Department’s communications division,

“The history of public safety is one where the vendors have driven the requirements. We don’t want that situation anymore. We want public safety to do the decision making. And since we’re starting with a clean slate, we can develop rules that everybody has to play by.”

We recently discussed here the media campaign of the National Sheriff’s Association and questioned whether it had a grass roots base or just a few corporate supporters.

The article ends,

(T)he window to plan a next-generation broadband system is starting to close. “There is nothing that is inevitable about having a nationwide, interoperable system,” Mr. Barnett told Congress this summer. “Indeed, the last 75 years of public safety communications teaches us that there are no natural or market forces” that will make it happen.

This is too important an issue to drag one for another decade or too or to pander to selfserving corporate interests and their pawns in the public safety area.
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