Improving Public Safety Communications

May 17, 2010 by John Morabito

One of the key benefits of expanding broadband services in America is improved public safety communications. Fire, police, and other safety officials must be able to communicate seamlessly and reliably with one another to best prevent and respond to emergencies. New broadband applications can transform emergency response, too. For example, broadband can enable first responders to view the layout of a burning building before entering it or transmit critical video images from an accident scene.

As President Obama noted when the FCC released the National Broadband Plan in March, the Administration supports a nationwide, interoperable public safety wireless broadband network. And recognizing the need for improved public safety communications, Congress cited public safety broadband projects as a funding priority for BTOP in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. So when the FCC recently cleared the way for 21 state and local governments to deploy new public safety broadband systems, NTIA quickly responded to this significant development by providing these governments the opportunity to apply for stimulus funding to build the networks. Some of these governments may have been deterred from applying to BTOP prior to the FCC’s decision, and NTIA wanted them to have access to this extraordinary opportunity.

Of course, any applications we receive from these governments will be subject to the same grant rules and the same stringent review process as all other proposals in the second BTOP round. There is no guarantee of funding. But if we get strong proposals, we have the chance to invest in pilot projects that bring us closer to achieving a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network – and make America safer.

John Morabito is a senior policy advisor for BTOP

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