Here’s public safety’s next lobbying battle
A great deal of euphoria, if not outright giddiness, was on display all last week at IWCE 2012 in Las Vegas, given the decision by Congress to reallocate the 700 MHz D Block and provide $7 billion for public safety’s new broadband communications network.
That’s perfectly understandable. This was a long battle, fought over six years and marked with several junctures where it appeared that the cause was lost. And Congress made the call at arguably the last possible moment, with this being an election year. If too many more calendar pages would have turned, this would have become a matter for the next Congress — and who knows how that would have turned out.
So, good for the brave men and women who risk their lives daily to protect us and our property. They richly deserve this network, which will keep them safer and help them to do their jobs better. Having once been the victim of a horrific car crash, I can tell you from experience how important that is.
But there is something about the enabling legislation — buried deep within — that troubles me greatly. Congress only thought it necessary to provide a paltry $115 million in funding for next-generation 911. Even though this legislation was geared toward public-safety communications capabilities in the field, this seems crazy to me. Emergency response begins in the 911 center. For that reason, it makes sense that the communications used in such centers be brought into the future in lockstep with the systems that are used in the field. Ultimately, what is needed is a holistic approach — even if it plays out one hill at a time.
Think of it this way: The elements of emergency response are analogous to wheel spokes, which are quite useful when they are connected to a well-functioning hub, but much less effective when they are not. The public-safety answering point is that hub, and needs to be brought into the 21st century every bit as much as the communications gear that is used in the field by police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and hazmat responders.
Admittedly, the political and technical realities of next-gen 911 may have prevented more significant funding being included in this legislation. But the fact remains that there is a new hill for public safety to take. The next Congress won’t arrive until January of next year, so there’s ample time to prepare for the next lobbying battle. As has been said, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.