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The Public Safety Broadband Network Must Be Mission-Critical for Data, Video and other Real-Time Transmission of Non-Voice Information First!

Alexandria, VA, September 21, 2011 – In strong reaction to media comments attributed to House Energy and Commerce Committee Majority staff earlier this week, the leadership of the Public Safety Alliance today challenged Chairman Upton and subcommittee Chairman Walden to back up their staff claims. In recent misleading comments in the press about the lessons learned from the East Coast earthquake House Commerce Committee’s Republican majority staff was quoted as saying “The big lesson from last month’s Virginia earthquake is that carriers need more spectrum, not public safety.”

“That won’t solve the problem,” according to former APCO President Dick Mirgon, “Carriers build networks to meet daily peak loading, not for emergency-to-catastrophic events. They’d have to fundamentally change their business model. This is one of the many reasons public safety cannot rely on commercial networks. We have bipartisan support for allocation and funding, but we need help from the Majority committee staff to get all the facts on the table and keep it accurate. This complex issue requires substantive dialogue, not rhetoric.”

“Even after two years of outreach and education to leaders and their staff in Washington, DC, some key staff still don’t seem to grasp the situation, the threat, and the nature of our Nation’s urgent need for a nationwide, mission-critical and interoperable Public Safety Broadband Network,” stated NYPD Deputy Chief Charles Dowd. “We are not talking primarily about developing a network to immediately replace our traditional, voice-centric Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems. The reality is that, more than ten years after 9/11, the average 15 year old kid with a smart phone has more technology than our public safety and first responders do out in the field. In this context, we are talking about the ability to send text, photos, streaming video and other large chunks of critical data during an emergency, a crisis or other critical incident. Is there an opportunity to move mission-critical voice to the broadband network in the future and obtained greater efficiencies from a converged network? Of course, but that’s not going to happen tomorrow, or next year. That is a longer term effort that requires hard work, testing and investment.”

“When the earthquake hit our area, it was not our radios or our mission-critical voice systems that became untenable, it was the false notion of those in Washington who continue to argue that public safety can rely on priority access to commercial networks for our mission-critical broadband needs,” added Charlottesville, Virginia Fire Chief Charles Werner. “No matter how much spectrum you give commercial carriers, they will never build their consumer-focused networks to a mission-critical, public safety grade, they will not build out in rural America, nor will they willingly hand over control of their networks and knock off their customers for public safety priority during emergencies. To be reliable, we need capacity, the hardened infrastructure that will withstand the worst environmental conditions and the reliability of long term back up power. Furthermore, you either provide more spectrum or provide greater cell density to increase capacity, but I assure you cell density cost twice as much as spectrum allocation for public safety, and under Mr. Redl’s proposal, American taxpayers at the state and local level would pay the difference to solve this nationwide problem, more than twice as much cost to realize the same public safety capability for the Nation. Study after study has found that allocation is the most cost-effective way to meet the need. It is broadband data that the 9/11 Commission urged Congress to provide more spectrum for public safety to use to establish such a mission-critical capability.”

In recent days, named and anonymous spokespeople for the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Majority Staff have been quoted in several publications including Politico and Communications Daily as stating that, despite proponents attempts to use the recent disasters to advocate for allocation of the D block, public safety communications were unaffected by the earthquake and Hurricane Irene.

“We urge Congressman Walden and Chairman Upton to correct the record in the interest of a factual discussion,” stated Chief Jeff Johnson, CEO of Western Fire Chiefs Association. “ We have patiently and persistently worked with Members and their congressional staff over the past two years to set the record straight, provide the information they have sought, and answer all of their questions to the best of our ability. Our citizens expect more from our elected leaders and their staff in Washington.”

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