Copps says FCC needs to help public safety more
DENVER–Federal regulators should do more to aid public-safety communications, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said last night in a keynote speech during the gala event that closed this year’s Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) annual conference.
Copps applauded APCO members for delivering quality communications to law enforcement, even in an environment fraught with shoestring budgets and substandard resources. The FCC officially has no budgetary power, but the agency can help on the latter front, he said.
“We shouldn’t be asking you to do so much of the heavy lifting,” he said. “We have these outstanding FCC resources available, and I believe we have an obligation to use them more fully. You should expect as much from the FCC as we expect of you.”
Not only should the FCC encourage interoperable communications within the law-enforcement community, Copps reiterated his recent suggestion that the FCC create an office devoted solely to homeland-security and public-safety matters. This office also could serve as a clearinghouse for communications plans and proposals that could be accessed by local entities.
“Why should every jurisdiction across this broad land have to start at square one, when others have already done so much work?” he said.
Given the FCC’s mandate in Title I of the Communications Act, Copps said there is little question that the agency has the authority to be involved in public-safety communications policy. In fact, Copps said he advocates integrating hospitals and the medical community into the nation’s emergency-response system.
“Can you imagine what would happen in the event of a biological attack, if our hospitals were unable to communicate with first responders, 911 call takers, federal authorities and each other,” he said. “It’s a terrifying prospect—one we must do everything in our power to avoid.”
And there is little doubt that the U.S. will be the target of another terrorist plot, Copps said.
“It is not a question of if they will strike within our borders but when they will strike,” he said. “As public servants and public-safety officials, we have no higher priority than protecting our people and making sure that we can deal effectively with the next attack.”
Citing the leadership of new FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Copps said he is optimistic the FCC can help provide public-safety officials a better communications environment. Communications is a key component in the war against terrorism—a war Copps is confident the U.S. will win.
“When the going gets really tough—when challenges threaten our safety and survival—we come together, we work together and pull together for the common good,” he said. “It’s how we built this country, and it’s why we will overcome this current threat, too.”