Public Safety begins with broadband

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Lucent Technologies has been urging law makers to help build a hybrid broadband-wireless public safety network which can overcome the short comings of current public nets. Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs President Bill O’Shea speaking in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology recommended that the federal government set aside a specific spectrum – in the 700 MHz range – to be used as a dedicated, secure, interoperable nationwide broadband communications network exclusively for America’s first responders and decision makers.

“While this spectrum can certainly be used for other applications, we believe the cost benefits to the taxpayer by building a dedicated, unified national responder network in this band would outweigh any potential auction proceeds,” O’Shea said. Currently first responders – firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel – depend on existing systems designed primarily for voice communications. These systems were not designed to be interoperable, he said. O’Shea pointed out that in contrast, America’s teenagers can take pictures and send video clips via their cell phones to friends anywhere in the country and business users can check email, browse the web, and download maps and directions while on the road over secure, high-speed wireless connections.

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Jesse Kopelman

O’Shea himself points out why a dedicated network is stupid — if you can get all the features need with existing commercial networks why build a new one? Why not just pay to upgrade those networks to be better and more reliable? This way consumers also benefit. It is trivial to modify existing wireless networks, especially those GSM-based, to allow premptive service to certain users (public safety). What is not trivial is upgrading them to be more reliable and have better coverage, but that is something you would have to tackle in building a network from scratch anyway.

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