A San Jose Mercury News op-ed:

To ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past, we need to reallocate a portion of our nation’s airwaves, known as spectrum, for public safety communications. These airwaves will enable the seamless delivery of voice and data services among our first responders. With them, and a coordinated federal effort and sufficient funding, public safety will have a network that is sustainable in both the short and long term.

Working with my colleagues in the House of Representatives, I’ve put forward a proposal that will accomplish these goals and ensure first responders can communicate with each other, using the latest broadband-enabled technology.

Today, first responders rely almost exclusively on voice communications. Through the power of broadband, a mobile app can give firefighters access to the floor plans of a burning building before they arrive on the scene. Imagine an app that allows an ambulance crew to relay in real-time a patient’s vital signs to an emergency room doctor before the patient reaches the hospital. A next-generation, broadband-based network will equip our first responders with these innovative life-saving tools and much more.

As we think about the needs of our first responders, we can’t forget about our nation’s 911 call centers, which are often the first line of defense for those in distress. Every day, 911 call centers receive more than 650,000 calls across the country. The legislative proposal I’ve introduced also would provide state and local jurisdictions with the resources to transition to next generation 911 technologies, which would enable first responders to receive photos, video, and text messages, all of which can improve the quality and speed of emergency response. Read the rest of Eshoo’s column here.