Advancing a Free Society

Public Safety vs. Commercial Use

Monday, June 21, 2010

This past week the Federal Communications Commission issued a White Paper on the contentious question of how much of a valuable 700 megahertz (MHz) band of prime spectrum should be dedicated to public safety uses. The issue has been simmering ever since the breakdown in public safety communications boosted the 9/11 death toll inside the World Trade Center. Whether these breakdowns were attributable to insufficient spectrum access or some other cause is, to be sure, an open question. We are never sure about the proper cure unless we first make the sound diagnosis.

Those difficulties do not slow down public safety officials and their commercial backers who look at the question as simply one of social priorities. Thus R. David Paulison, who formerly worked for Federal Emergency Management Agency--itself no recommendation for anything--and now consults for Motorola bemoaned how it would be "a sad day when this nation wants to put more emphasis on broadband for iPads than it does on public safety."

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(photo credit: samantha celera)