Boston Bombing Aftermath Showed First Responder Communications Problems


As law enforcement sought the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, the city's reliance on commercial cellular wireless carriers became an escalating problem, with major crashes in the bombing’s aftermath, reports Stateline. “I called Comcast and asked them to open up the Xfinity Wi-Fi in Watertown,” said Boston Chief Information Officer Donald Denning. The investigation demonstrated how first responders need to be able to share high volumes of data securely with partners in other law enforcement agencies. Denning said the city's reliance on the capacity of commercial carriers reinforced the need for a dedicated national public safety broadband network now in its planning stage. Suzanne Spaulding, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, acknowledged there were other communications failures during the response to the bombings. “Significant problems really arose [ ] with that essential delivery of big data packages, particularly the videos that proved to be so significant and important in the resolution of this event.” She said the challenges experienced in Boston are the issues FirstNet, the independent authority that will design, build, and operate the new network, is supposed to address. State and local governments must continue paying for existing “land mobile radio” systems until broadband-based voice functions have been fully developed and proved reliable. The U.S. Government Accountability Office says that may take a decade or more.

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