IAFC President Jack Parow recently testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security, declaring his association’s support for the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011 . Parow said that the act’s passage would support the build out of a national public-safety interoperable broadband network to be used during local and/or multiagency incidents to securely transmit mission-critical data, video and voice across jurisdictions.

“Our business is incident management, and the fundamentals here are command and control. These elements are not possible without sufficient communications capability,” Parow testified. “This was acknowledged in both the 9-11 Commission and Katrina reports, which summarized the deficiencies of response to those catastrophic events.”

Parow said because the Federal Communications Commission in the past provided “thin slices of spectrum” for public safety as each frequency band became available, there exists a patchwork of disparate radio systems that do not support cross-jurisdictional communications. A national architecture for public-safety communications is required to solve such issues and bring public-safety communications into the 21st century, he said.

To achieve a nationwide network, key elements need to be in place, Parow said, and asked for a network with sufficient capacity to achieve connectivity “coast to coast, border to border.” The 10 MHz of D Block spectrum — currently slated for FCC auction — must be added to 10 MHz of spectrum already licensed to public safety, he said.

“That would give us a 20 MHz network,” Parow testified. “Public safety, under FCC regulation, is required to use Long Term Evolution as its broadband technology. To maximize the potential of this technology, a configuration of 20 MHz is needed.”

Once built, Parow said public safety must control and manage the network, as it is the only way to ensure network priority during multijurisdictional incidents — noting that such control will ensure the build out of interoperable systems that can help agencies effectively manage day-to-day operations along with major incidents.

“We cannot have commercial providers deciding what is or is not an emergency or what the priority is,” he said. “Public-safety transmissions must go through without delay. The lives of our firefighters and medics depend on this necessity. A ‘no service’ signal is not acceptable in emergency operations.”

Click here to read a full transcript of Parow’s testimony