APParently, the world has gone amok
I sometimes wonder whether I am the only person in the world who is completely sick of the endless barrage of commercials from wireless carriers touting their cornucopia of applications, popularly known as “apps.” It’s possible that I am. I tend to be curmudgeonly. And old-fashioned.
I also tend to be practical. I don’t need to have the Internet with me 24/7. In fact, I don’t need it at all. If I want to see the highlights of my favorite baseball team and players, I can turn on my television. When I want to know what’s playing at the local movie theater and when, I can pick up the handset on my wireline phone — believe it or not, it works just as well today as ever — and call the theater. When I want to talk to my neighbor, I can do so over the fence we share — I don’t need Facebook.
Further, if I need to buy something, I can go to the store — it still has everything that I need, and the amount of money I spend on gas always is less than the shipping-and-handling charges I would incur on a Web purchase. And I certainly don’t need to be able to use my cellular phone to turn off my lights from afar. Let them burn. I can afford the penny or two it would add to my electric bill.
Here’s what I do need: I need first responders to have as much information as possible, so they can do their jobs more effectively and more safely. I need them to be able to view real-time video from an incident. I need them to have whatever documents they need to know who and what are in a burning building. I need their incident commanders to be able to monitor their conditions, so they don’t succumb to various stress-related maladies. I need those commanders to be able to monitor the locations of first responders, so that they can get them to safety when things go south.
A debate is raging over whether Congress should reallocate the D Block in the 700 MHz band — 10 MHz of spectrum currently set to be auctioned to commercial carriers — to public safety, which would give first responders the spectrum they believe they need to finally emerge from the communications Dark Ages. This seems like a no-brainer. Do the commercial carriers really need this spectrum? They say they do, in order to keep up with the demand for mobile data. But do we really need more apps? Where does it end? And does the U.S. Treasury really need the relatively small amount of money a D Block auction would generate? Sure, every little bit helps, but let’s face it, the auction proceeds won’t put a dent into the national debt or significantly reduce the budget deficit.
As Congress mulls this issue, it should consider which option will provide the greater bang for the buck. From my perch, the answer is clear: reallocate the D Block to public safety. This morning, I attended a fire-service event in the Chicago area and heard an interesting suggestion from one of the chiefs who attended. He said Congress should give the D Block to public-safety, which would then sublease the spectrum to commercial carriers. That way, when a major incident occurs, public safety would be in control and could ensure that it has access to the airwaves. That seems like a good idea to me.
I fear, however, that Congress will do exactly the opposite — the commercial wireless sector is a powerful lobbying force, and they’re not going to like the chief’s suggestion, if for no other reason than it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for a carrier to develop a business plan for the spectrum if they’re not in control of it.
To borrow from the folk-music group Four Jacks and a Jill, this is a strange, strange world we live in. As such, the priorities of our elected officials often aren’t what they should be, or what we need them to be.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.