During the chaos of the September 11 attacks a decade ago, the brave first responders who rushed to the World Trade Center found they couldn’t communicate with each other. That problem persists ten years later, according to a report just released by the Bipartisan Policy Committee.
The committee revisited recommendations made back in 2004 by the 9/11 Commission, the bipartisan group tasked with identifying government weaknesses exposed by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Authored by former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton and former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, who co-chaired the commission, the “Tenth Anniversary Report Card” found that a lot of good things have happened in homeland security over the last ten years, but the report flunked the federal government on its progress in developing an interoperable communications system with a dedicated national public safety spectrum. The commission had encouraged Congress to expedite and increase “assignment of radio spectrum for public safety purposes” when it released its original report on July 22, 2004. But that hasn’t happened yet. Why not? Politics.
“Despite the lives at stake, the recommendation to improve radio interoperability for first responders has stalled because of a political fight over whether to allocate 10 MHz of radio spectrum . . . directly to public safety for a nationwide network, or auction it off to a commercial wireless bidder who would then be required to provide priority access on its network dedicated to public safety during emergencies,” said the committee.
Friends, I don’t pretend to understand much about politics, and I don’t plan to spend much time dealing with politics in this space, as we are all too busy trying to serve our customers. But this seems especially puzzling to me. Here we have a clear need, a clear solution, and evidently, a way to pay for it, but we still can’t seem to get it done. I hope the powers that be will listen to the basic statement that Governor Kean made at the press conference announcing the report: “When fireman can’t talk to policeman—can’t talk to rescue workers, medical personnel—people die.”