FCC commissioners yesterday voted unanimously to adopt emissions masks for equipment operating in 4.9 GHz spectrum that public-safety officials claim will give first responders access to the most updated broadband data services at affordable costs.

For months, public-safety representatives have advocated that the FCC adopt emission masks for the 4.9 GHz airwaves—reserved for public safety—that are similar to those used in the 5 GHz band for unlicensed commercial equipment. By doing so, first responders will be able to benefit from increased competition that should generate favorable pricing and features that are commonplace in the commercial market, according to proponents of a looser mask.

Opposing this view was Motorola, which advocated a tighter mask at 4.9 GHz to reduce the possibility of interference for first responders’ mission-critical data tasks—something the FCC approved a year ago before opening the item for reconsideration. But public-safety officials said the tighter mask would prevent commercial vendors from participating, leaving law-enforcement entities with limited—and generally more expensive—equipment choices for their 4.9 GHz services.

In its order, the FCC called for some additional filtering but approved the looser mask that would let public safety use more affordable commercial equipment—a notion FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin applauded.

“I think it’s important that public-safety personnel have access to information on the ground during times of emergency, whether it’s building layouts or medical information about people,” Martin said. “I think the ability utilize off-the-shelf equipment in neighboring bands is critical to bring down the cost of doing so.” While Martin focused on the value of broadband in emergencies, fellow Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein cited the importance of high-speed data for law enforcement on a daily basis.

“They can do reports right there in the field, so they don’t have to go back to headquarters to do them,” Adelstein said. “That way, they can be out in the field instead of back in the office—and that deters crime, just having them on the street.”