Stimulus package does not target public safety
Although the U.S. Senate today is expected to approve an economic-stimulus package worth about $800 billion, public-safety communications is not a primary target of the legislation, according to public-safety officials.
The one exception to this is the broadband portion of the legislation, which includes language that the stimulus money may be used to “improve access to, and use of, broadband service by public-safety agencies,” according to the text of the Senate bill.
While public safety is mentioned in the broadband section, it is only one of many areas mentioned as an eligible recipient of the broadband funding, said Courtney McCarron, spokesperson for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).
“The grant program mentions the term ‘public safety,’” McCarron said yesterday during an interview with Urgent Communications. “I guess that can be left up to interpretation, but it is focused on consumer technology.”
McCarron also said that APCO does not believe the legislation language allows for any stimulus money to be used to pay for public-safety narrowband technologies.
Meanwhile, the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST)—the nationwide licensee for the 10 MHz of public-safety broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band—previously asked that $15 billion of the stimulus money be directed to the public-private partnership that would build a broadband wireless network for public safety. The requested funding would have gone to the commercial partner in the venture and would have been designed to help offset the additional network costs incurred by the commercial partner while meeting some of public safety’s specifications.
However, PSST Chairman Harlin McEwen said the $15 billion request is not referenced in the latest version of the Senate stimulus bill.
“It’s not in there now, … but we are not excluded from accessing some of the broadband money,” McEwen said today during an interview with Urgent Communications.
The Senate is scheduled to conduct a final vote on the matter at noon EST. If the bill is passed as expected, officials for the House and Senate would have to convene in a conference committee to negotiate final legislation that resolves differences between the House and Senate versions of the stimulus bills.