Buffalo, New York – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood with Western New York first responders today to announce her support of legislation that would provide first responders and public safety officials with critical interoperable radio airwaves needed to effectively communicate in the event a major response is needed. The 9-11 Commission Report identified insufficient interoperability between communications systems used by first responders during the attacks and rescue efforts. Senator Gillibrand is urging Congress to come together before the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attack and pass the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act, legislation that would create a framework for the deployment of a nationwide, interoperable, wireless broadband network for public safety. Senator Gillibrand is also calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to streamline red tape so local emergency departments can maximize taxpayer funds when upgrading their equipment.
“There is no higher priority than the security of our families and communities,” Senator Gillibrandst century, and free New York’s emergency personnel from federal bureaucracy to get the job done.” said. “If we’re going to keep New Yorkers safe, all of our first responders must be able to communicate with each other in real time during emergencies. Nearly ten years after the horror of 9-11, it’s time to bring our first responder technology into the 21
“Effective Interoperable Communications is critical to public safety first responders in helping to not only mitigate disaster events but during everyday emergency calls,” said Erie County Commissioner of Emergency Services Gregory Skibitsky. “The D block is a key broadband communication application that will enhance even further first responders’ capability in communicating especially through mobile data terminals (MDTs) which are utilized in transmitting critical data.”
The 9-11 Commission Report identified insufficient interoperability between communications systems used by first responders. Firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and other public safety professionals all communicate on different frequencies and with different systems, creating barriers to provide a coordinated and efficient response during an emergency situation.
First responder organizations are currently mandated by the FCC to upgrade their existing communications systems by January 1, 2013 in order to reduce bandwidth, however, this requirement will not help address the interoperability problem. In order to achieve interoperability, first responder organizations might end up having to purchase even more equipment. Senator Gillibrand believes that these overlapping requirements are counterproductive and potentially waste taxpayer dollars. Therefore, Senator Gillibrand is calling on the FCC to reevaluate their requirements and deadlines so that they accomplish the goal of interoperability set forth in the 9-11 commission report.
Free-Up Airwaves For Public Safety:
Senator Gillibrand is urging Congressional Leadership to pass legislation that would provide first responders and public safety officials with radio airwaves to keep communities safe before the tenth anniversary of September 11. The Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act would create a framework for the deployment of a nationwide, interoperable, wireless broadband network for public safety, allocating 10 megahertz of spectrum, known as the “D-block,” to public safety. It would also direct the FCC to develop technical and operational standards to ensure nationwide interoperability and provide incentive auction authority.
This is also an Administration priority, as President Obama called for the development and deployment of a nationwide wireless broadband network that would afford public safety agencies with far greater levels of effectiveness and interoperability in his State of the Union address this winter. An important element of this plan is the reallocation of the D Block for public safety.
Urge FCC to Streamline Deadlines for First Responders:
Current FCC regulations require that all public safety land mobile communications systems transition to new technology that is intended to make the use of wireless spectrum more efficient by January 1, 2013. However, this transition is very expensive for public safety officials, and would still not meet the 9-11 Commission recommendations. Public safety entities that transition to the technology to meet this requirement in 2013 may again have to upgrade their technology within the next decade to join the national, interoperable broadband network, as recommended by the 9-11 Commission, and current FCC regulations do not take this into account.
Senator Gillibrand is urging FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to take into consideration the impact that a national broadband network would have on the current FCC deadline, and to ensure that the federal government is using a coherent and cost-effective approach to meet the future communications needs of public safety. The Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Communications Act would generate the necessary revenue to pay for the development and deployment of this network, and does not place any burdensome requirements on public safety entities to return the spectrum that they currently use.
In her letter, Senator Gillibrand wrote, “I understand the need to ensure that the existing public safety spectrum is used as efficiently as possible, however, I have concerns that this requirement could place a financial burden on public safety entities that have already seen their budgets stretched thin during this difficult economic time… I request that as you look to the 2013 narrowbanding deadline and take into consideration the potential impact of a public safety broadband network, as designed in S. 28, on your current requirements. This is to make sure that the federal government is using a coherent and cost-effective approach to ensuring that public safety has the necessary resources to meet future communications needs.”