After a failed attempt with the private sector, the FCC will ask congress to foot the bill for a wireless communications network for improvement of emergency responders. The plan would cost an estimated $18 billion over the next ten years.
The new state of the art network would allow emergency responders to share information across states, cities and localities seamlessly. The technology would even include voice communication. The FCC claims the system is long overdue, now more than eight years after September 11th and four years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
“We have gone too long with too little progress to show for it,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a press conference this Thursday. “The private sector simply is not going to build what the country needs in terms of [a] public safety network. This plan is a part of Genachowski’s larger broadband plan expected to be released March 16th in the FCC public meeting.
The larger boradband plan could cost an estimated $20 billion -$350 billion to provide low cost, nationwide broadband by 2020.
The emergency communications plan will use 10 megahertz of spectrum already assigned to public safety. Along with the 10MHz allocated, emergency responders would have wireless access and priority to 70 additional MHz of commercial spectrum. The 1o MHz allocated to emergency response called the D-block was auctioned in 2008 with no commericial bidder. No one was willing to share a spectrum with emergency response.
The future of these 10MHz still remains unclear. The D-Block will once again go up for auction in 2011 with no restrictions. Potentially, emergency response could lose their spectrum depending on the wishes of the highest bidder.