Better Broadband Better Lives

Public Safety Alliance Claims to Need More Spectrum

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WASHINGTON, July 12, 2010 – The Public Safety Alliance recently released a paper outlining what the alliance claims were dangerous assumptions in the Federal Communications Commissions’ Capacity white paper.

The PSA says, “The Commission studied three tragic moderately sized real disasters in its white paper.  However, it failed to utilize data from more extensive real world situations like the attacks in New York on 9/11 or from Hurricane Katrina. The public safety community is left to wonder if anything has been learned from these disasters.”

The paper, entitled “House of Cards,” outlines what the PSA says are dangerous assumptions and misrepresentations of facts.

There are 10 megahertz of spectrum currently allocated to public safety, spectrum that the public safety community can use for communication and transmission of data.  The FCC says that these 10 MHz provide more than the required capacity for day-to-day communications.

The FCC believes that the amount of spectrum is proportionally correct for the amount of users. The PSA says that this assumption is dangerous and that public safety should be allocated more spectrum.

The “per-function use of the spectrum by a public safety user will be, at the very least, 10 times greater than that for the average commercial user,” reads “House of Cards.” Even though there are fewer users, those public safety first-responders using the network are going to need more spectrum to operate than a commercial user, and thus do need more spectrum.

The FCC suggests that public safety could share spectrum with the commercial sector, but PSA also says that sharing is not a viable solution because these networks can become clogged up very quickly with their own users.

The PSA even says that the FCC calculated the amount of spectrum that public safety users need based on “misrepresented facts.”

“Public safety has a total of 97Mhz of spectrum allocated for use across the RF spectrum with 60MHz of that total available for broadband use,” says the FCC.

This has been misrepresented according to the PSA because, “Public safety only has 10 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band … [and] the additional 50 MHz in the 4.9 GHz band does not penetrate buildings and is not suitable for wide area mobile public safety …”

The majority of the spectrum that firefighters and police have access to is not only unsuitable for broadband use, but also is not functional in many disaster areas.  The solution for PSA is to allocate more of D Block spectrum to public safety, that way they do not have to compete for space, and have all of the space that they need so that safety efforts in situations like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina are not impeded.

The conclusion of the paper says that the PSA supports House Bill H.R. 5081 entitled the  Broadband for First Responders Act of 2010. It “Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to increase the electromagnetic spectrum allocation for public safety services by 10 megahertz and reduce such allocation for commercial use by the same amount. Directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to:
(1) allocate the paired electromagnetic spectrum bands of 758-763 megahertz and 788-793 megahertz (referred to as D Block) for public safety broadband communications and assign such paired bands to public safety”

The bill was introduced by Rep. Peter King, and is currently co-sponsored by 35 other Representatives.

David Cup is working at through an internship with the National Journalism Center. A student at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, he is pursuing the majors of Political Science and Journalism. He has worked on his school yearbook and written for the Franciscan Sports Information Department.

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