Public Safety at Stake: How the DTV Transition Can Redeploy Unused Airwaves for America’s First Responders


Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Sponsor, SaveLives Act

Hon. Timothy J. Roemer, Member, 9/11 Commission and President, Center for National Policy

Greg Meffert, Chief Information Officer, City of New Orleans

Robert LeGrande, Chair, Spectrum Coalition for Public Safety and Deputy CTO, District of Columbia

Paul Smith, Technology Director, Center for Neighborhood Technology and Volunteer, wireless networks for Katrina evacuees

Bob Pepper (invited), Cisco Systems, Inc.

From the fire fighters who died on 9/11 to the rescue workers struggling to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, the absence of reliable and interoperable voice and data communications among public safety agencies has become an urgent national dilemma. Within the coming weeks, the Senate Commerce Committee will mark up DTV legislation likely to impose a hard deadline on the clearance of TV channels 52 to 69 – freeing up precious spectrum for public safety voice interoperability and for auction to commercial broadband services. Senators will also consider whether the vacant, unassigned channels between channels 2 and 51 should be opened for unlicensed access by public safety agencies for mobile data networks and for other commercial and community wireless broadband networks.

Senator John McCain and 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer are leading the long-delayed campaign to ensure better disaster preparedness by moving a handful of analog TV stations off spectrum that are badly needed to ensure interoperability for our nation’s first responders. Beyond voice communication, other panelists will describe the benefits of mobile, high-speed public safety data networks that will require access to the sort of high-penetration airwaves that currently lie fallow as unassigned TV channels and “guard bands” in every community nationwide.

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