FCC: Congress should invest in public safety network

Just last week, police chiefs, fire chiefs and sheriffs met with lawmakers to ask that more airwaves be put aside for the creation of a national public safety network.

It's been tried before. When the FCC auctioned off airwaves two years ago, a large chunk was set aside to form a network through public-private partnership, meaning a private company would help foot the bill to create the network and then sell excess capacity to consumers.

But no company was willing to bid on the airwaves because the network's success was uncertain. As a result, public safety agencies still don't have an interoperable nationwide network.

Barnett pointed out that in some cases, first responders have to carry seven different devices to be able to reach all of the other public safety agencies.

"Investment in a public safety broadband wireless network is critical," he continued. "Broadband is the best prospect for real interoperability. We have an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to form public-private partnerships in order to leverage commercial technology and resources. However, to take advantage of this opportunity, funding is required to ensure that public safety has the coverage, redundancy and resiliency it requires..."

"We must invest now in our first responders," he said. "We should not wait for a disaster to make us wish that we had."