Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

NLC Presses Congress to Clear the Spectrum for Public Safety Use

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

NLC Presses Congress to Clear the Spectrum for Public Safety Use

Article excerpt

The National League of Cities and its coalition partners from the public safety community have been lobbying Congress about the need for clear and efficient communication among public safety personnel during an emergency.

The coalition members told members of Congress that emergency communication systems, cities and towns need more radio frequencies dedicated to public safety communication. Specifically, NLC is asking Congress to set a firm date for broadcasters to release the spectrum and create a grant program to provide enhanced interoperability of communications.

Since 1997, local public safety agencies have been anticipating using the spectrum from TV channels 60-69 for new and expanded public safety radio communications operations. Congress told the Federal Communications Commission to clear those frequencies for emergency communication and gave the broadcasters until December 31, 2006 to relinquish the frequency for public safety communication.

However, the delay of the broadcaster switchover from analog to digital transition has forced many public safety agencies to operate on congested radio systems, which delays effective emergency communication.

The report of the 9/11 Commission, established to analyze the attacks on September 11, 2001, specifically stated that the inability of these first responders to talk with each other and their commanders resulted in a loss of life on that fateful day. The 9/11 Commission also identified the need for more spectrum as crucial to assist police, fire fighters and emergency responders in communicating during an emergency such as a terrorist attack or a hurricane.

In the last Congress, NLC supported the "Spectrum Availability for Emergency-Response and Law-Enforcement To Improve Vital Emergency Services Act," or the SAVE LIVES Act because it would set a firm deadline of December 31, 2008, by which the federal government must give public safety agencies the broadcast frequencies Congress set aside for them as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. …

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