A political season filled with argument and disagreement lies just ahead. But there is common ground upon which most of us — regardless of party affiliation or ideology — can stand. And we believe doing so is in the public's best interest.

We need full government support, at all levels, for ongoing upgrades to the public-safety and homeland-security radio communications infrastructure. That includes accelerating migration to state-of-the-science digital radio systems, equipment and interoperability.

Candidates running for election (and their advisers and staff) will be listening to citizens and organizations regarding issues and priorities. Given the polarization that exists regarding many issues, they may be looking for topics about which there is little disagreement and for which there is potential consensus. So for each and all of us, there may soon be a time to stand up and speak to our common interest in public-safety communications.

As we all know, the technical standard for digital radio is in place: APCO Project 25 (P25). But while this may be basic and familiar to us, we may over-estimate the understanding of legislators, officials and the general public.

The process guided by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials was detailed and arduous, involving representatives of both radio users and manufacturers.

Engineering new digital radios in compliance with the P25 standard likewise has been detailed and arduous, a formidable challenge. Some companies, including ours, strived to develop technology in full compliance with P25 specifications, whereas others have opted to pay licensing fees to use P25 technology developed by competitors. Regardless of approach, virtually every radio manufacturer competing in the public-safety arena today has P25-compliant products to offer.

That means there are myriad options — including cost options. In a free market, open competition helps drive down prices, a critical factor for many public-safety and government agencies.

Nevertheless, there are many agencies under budget constraints and tied down with older analog radio equipment that so far have been unable to upgrade to P25 digital radios. We must work to help resolve those problems as soon as possible, as the migration to digital technology must be inclusive and expedited for agencies unable to afford the move.

This is not only a funding issue, not only a time-sensitive problem, but also a matter of first priority in the public interest. If more government officials and executives, at all levels, understood the current situation and the road ahead, more progress could be made more rapidly.

Let's not forget how long it took for us to get here. Over several years the landscape of land mobile radio in this country focused on developing digital P25-compliant products that would communicate together, as well as provide a range of new advances and enhancements.

But keep in mind that the time-frame and related expectations have changed exponentially. The solution is here now, and the solution must be implemented now. That is where we need consensus to move forward more decisively and rapidly.

Whatever your own political opinions and persuasions, whatever the views of opposing candidates, I believe most would agree with this viewpoint. If you agree, express your opinion to an elected representative, a candidate for office, a decision-maker or someone in a related position. I urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to speak up and share this message.

Whether you are an emergency responder, a manufacturer, someone who may be involved in the purchasing process or simply an ordinary citizen, this should not be a contentious and divisive issue. Rather, this is our consensus, our common ground, where we can all share the same values regardless of politics.


David P. Storey is president and CEO of RELM Wireless Corp., a manufacturer and marketer of mobile radio equipment for public-safety and government agencies, as well as business-band radios serving a wide range of commercial applications, for six decades.