As has been the case for the past four years, a good portion of this month's Urgent Communications is devoted to coverage of the proposed nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders that would operate in the 700 MHz band. There is excellent reason for this. For starters, this initiative could well be the most important communications endeavor undertaken by the public-safety sector since mobile radios first were placed in patrol cars, which eliminated the need for police officers to find a call box whenever they wanted to talk to headquarters. Another is that there always seems to be some new development to write about.

In this issue, Senior Writer Donny Jackson reports on the effect that this network and the 4G networks being built by AT&T and Verizon — all of which will leverage Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology — will have on tower deployments. Clearly, the effect will be as dramatic as the capabilities these networks will provide to citizens and those who serve and protect them.

Also, Jackson reports on the legislation that was reintroduced into Congress last month by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) that would reallocate the D Block — a vital portion of 700 MHz airwaves that currently is slated to be auctioned to commercial interests — to the public-safety sector for its network. The legislation also would create a funding mechanism for the buildout.

While the D Block — reallocation aspect of the Rockefeller legislation will get the most attention, it is the funding aspect that is most vital. Without adequate, sustained funding, public safety's dream network never will come to fruition. Hopefully, the public-safety officials who are leading the effort to deliver this network will keep that in mind as they scurry about Capitol Hill in the coming weeks and months.

I think that they will. My greater fear is that they will forget about another crucial aspect of first-responder communications that desperately needs funding, as they put on the full-court press to secure the Congressional support needed to make the 700 MHz network a reality.

The 911 sector sorely needs financial help and deserves to receive it. Forget about migrating to next-generation 911 — some centers are struggling just to maintain basic operations. That is absurd. Emergency response starts with 911 call-takers and dispatchers, who have to make life-and-death decisions under the most trying of circumstances. If you doubt that for even a moment, then read associate editor Mary Rose Roberts'poignant account of what occurred in the 911 center in Tucson, Ariz., on the day of the tragic shootings.

It can be well argued that the 911 emergency center is the hub of the first-response wheel. It should be treated as such.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.