Public safety network demands successful wireless auctions
by Brian Fontes
The horrific events of September 11, 2001 changed everything when it comes to public safety. In big cities and small towns across America, it was clear first responders needed an expanded toolbox to tackle 21st century threats. Most critically, the brave men and women responding to public safety crises needed better communications tools – they needed a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network. The 9/11 Commission recommended the creation of such a network,, and yet, a decade later, there is still no dedicated nationwide public safety network for first responders. While first responders constantly modify and adapt public safety approaches, the communications technology that is the backbone to effective response is lagging dangerously behind. Public safety needs 21st century communication technology.
In 2012, with passage of The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, a nationwide interoperable broadband public safety network (FirstNet) was planned. To cover the $7 billion price tag, a spectrum incentive auction is being designed to repurpose airwaves currently owned by TV broadcasters. Revenue raised by the sale of those airwaves will be used to fund the deployment of FirstNet and for Next Generation 9-1-1.
In order to be successful, however, the auction must generate maximum revenue by capturing the full value of repurposed spectrum. This is the best and perhaps only opportunity to raise the necessary funds for investment in a network we so desperately need. We cannot settle for half-measures and incremental moves – the FCC must take decisive steps and set up an auction that delivers the resources needed to empower our public safety officials.
An incentive auction permitting all bidders to participate will be the most effective way to deliver the funds necessary to build FirstNet and help deploy Next Generation 9-1-1. If the most likely bidders in the auction face participation limits, then as a recent study found, auction proceeds would fall 40 percent. Restrictions, including limits on bids, would likely slash $12 billion in revenue. Broadcasters wishing to make the most of their spectrum holdings will be more hesitant to offer up their airwaves for bidding. A limited spectrum inventory will reduce funds generated from the auction, and jeopardize the future of FirstNet and funding for Next Generation 9-1-1.
To best equip America's 1.2 million first responders, who brave disaster and risk their lives, a nationwide public safety broadband network must be put in place. As Vice President Joe Biden noted last year, FirstNet “fulfill[s] a promise made to first responders after 9/11 that they would have the technology they need to stay safe and do their jobs.” We can no longer wait for this integral piece of public safety infrastructure, and we have to get it right by using an incentive auction that allows for full participation, and thus the maximum funding for FirstNet and Next Generation 9-1-1.
Fontes is the chief executive officer for the National Emergency Number Association, the only professional organization solely focused on 9-1-1 policy, technology, operations, and education issues.
Castle Rock PD reaches out to community
by Clayton Woullard
The Castle Rock Police Department is hoping to engage the public in a positive way and address some residents' issues with a new Coffee with a Cop program.
The program was started by an agency in California and then went national, though Commander Jason Lyons of the Castle Rock Police Department said he believes it is the only law enforcement agency in the state with scheduled events for the program.
Lyons said the goal of the program is to engage residents in a non-confrontational format because most of the public's interactions with police officers is when something bad has happened. Coffee with a Cop is similar to the citizen's academy, self-defense classes for women and National Night Out in the attempt to engage the public.
"We offer a lot of programs that are aimed at bridging that gap to see what the needs are and what the police department can do to meet those needs," Lyons said.
The department has held two Coffee with a Cop events in August and said from one of them officers were able to address a business owner's concerns of transients loitering near his property by helping to clean up the alley where they were loitering.
"It's not window dressing for us. We take advantage of the opportunity of listening to their concerns and if there's an issue that's assigned out to an officer to address to work with the reporting party to resolve," Lyons said.
He said the program falls under the department's community policing philosophy, which tries to prevent crimes or address pattern problems in the community. Some of the issues raised are homeowners' association issues, in which the department can't get involved but can act as a liaison, he said. He hopes the program spurs people to take care of their community, too.
The next Coffee with a Cop is at 8 a.m. Sept. 17 at Coffee and Crema, 4284 Trail Boss Drive, Suite 100.
For the full schedule, go to crgov.com/pdcoffee.