APCO president to urge Congress to set ‘firm and final date’ for digital TV transition in House subcommittee testimony
The president of the Associated Public-Safety Communications Officials, a membership organization based in Daytona Beach, Fla., is scheduled to testify on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at a hearing conducted by the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington. APCO has 16,000 members, including individuals who manage, operate, maintain and supply public safety communications systems.
Information released in advance by the organization said that Thera Bradshaw would speak on behalf of a coalition of public safety organizations to urge Congress to “fix a firm and final date” for TV broadcast stations in the 700 MHz band to cease operations as part of their transition from analog to digital broadcasting.
“This transition is critical as it would allow nationwide public safety use of radio spectrum already allocated for its use but blocked in most metropolitan areas by ongoing TV station operations,” a statement from APCO reads.
APCO said that the current debate on the issue has focused primarily on the shift from one technology to another. But the organization contended that the transition has “tremendous importance” for public safety.
“Homeland security demands that our nation’s ‘first responders’ have the very best communications possible. The completion of the digital TV transition is a critical element in providing effective communication solutions to public safety professionals,” APCO’s statement reads.
APCO said that a list of the public safety, law enforcement and government organizations on whose behalf Bradshaw would testify would be released on Monday.
The organization released excerpts from Bradshaw’s prepared testimony.
Regarding congressional action to set a digital TV transition deadline, Bradshaw is expected to say that such legislation would have a direct bearing on:
the ability of a police officer to call for assistance on a portable radio without waiting for an open channel.
the ability of a firefighter to communicate with firefighters from other agencies at the scene of an emergency.
the ability of local governments to implement the state-of-the art communications tools necessary to support their police, fire, emergency medical and other public safety personnel.
Bradshaw is expected to say that public safety agencies have a critical need for additional radio spectrum to accommodate their increasingly complex communications needs.
“Spectrum is needed to alleviate dangerous congestion on many existing public safety radio systems, to provide capacity for new ‘interoperable’ radio communications networks, and to allow for implementation of new communications tools such as mobile data terminals in police cars and other vehicles,” an excerpt from her prepared testimony reads.
”Six years ago, on Sept. 11, 1996, the joint FCC/NTIA Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee documented public safety spectrum requirements and included within its recommendations that approximately 24 MHz of spectrum be made available for public safety use within five years. Unfortunately, exactly five years later, on Sept. 11, 2001, that 24 MHz of new spectrum was not available for public safety,” the prepared testimony reads.
Bradshaw is expected to point out that since Sept. 11, 2001, the need for new radio spectrum has become even more critical. She plans to say that more and more state and local governments are realizing that their current public safety communications systems are often overcrowded and lack sufficient “interoperability” with other agencies and jurisdictions.
Bradshaw intends to testify that APCO, which is certified by the FCC to coordinate public safety frequencies, today has far more public safety agency requests for channels than it can possibly meet from existing spectrum allocations. Those demands for channel capacity are only getting worse as public safety agencies assume new “post-Sept. 11” responsibilities for “homeland security” and responding to potential terrorist threats.
”The radio spectrum that TV stations are currently blocking would also play a critical role in solving a long-standing problem facing public safety communications. All too often, ‘first responders’ from different agencies arriving at an emergency cannot communicate with each other. While this lack of ‘interoperability’ has many causes, it is most often the result of agencies being forced by spectrum scarcity to operate in different radio frequency bands. At any one time, the police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and others at an emergency scene may be operating on VHF, UHF, or 800 MHz radio systems, none of which can work together in the field,” Bradshaw’s prepared testimony reads.
The hearing at which Bradshaw is scheduled to testify will be conducted by the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet of the House Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 10 a.m. at 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.