Police and fire chiefs are calling on Congress to make sure public safety agencies have access to enough wireless airwaves to form a nationwide communication network for first responders, reports The Hill. Public safety executives say the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) National Broadband Plan undermines their ability to build a network that would allow federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to talk to each other during national disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina or the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Jamie Barnett, chief of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, says, “Public safety keeps saying they need more spectrum, but I have said they really need to talk about the funding as a key part as well. Without the federal funding, there will not be a national network because people will not be able to afford to get it to all the places we need it to be.” The Police Executive Research Forum held a conference Friday in which FCC officials and public safety executives met to air their differences, but little was resolved. Harlin McEwen, chairman of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust, said having the full block of spectrum is the only way to ensure first responders will have the capacity they need for the coming years. “We have a strong difference of opinion with the FCC chairman,” McEwen told The Hill.