Since the Sept. 11 attacks showed the communications difficulties that police departments and other agencies have in a crisis, government and public safety officials have wrestled with how to rebuild emergency networks, says the New York Times. That effort has reached a showdown between the Federal Communications Commission, which wants to auction off some of the wireless broadband spectrum to the private sector, and public safety officials, who say that the additional space on the public airwaves should be used instead for a dedicated emergency broadband network.
The two sides will face off today at a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, which is considering legislation to pay for a public safety network. Attorney General Eric Holder has said he believed the new wireless spectrum should be turned over to public safety officials for a dedicated network. The FCC says auctioning the spectrum is a priority. On Tuesday, the agency issued a white paper saying that police and fire departments could construct a better communications network at lower cost by using airwaves already dedicated to public safety use, supplemented by the right to essentially take over commercial networks in an emergency.