D-Block allocation a success, but a reminder to public safety officials


More than a decade after 9/11, Congress in late February agreed to put in motion one of the major recommendations of the 9/11 Commission: The creation of the country's first nationwide interoperable emergency communications network for first responders. But the road to creating such a public safety communications network is still long, according to Gregg Riddle, president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International.

The bill was tucked into the payroll-tax-cut extension legislation that President Obama signed into law on Feb. 22. It included three critical elements: the allocation of 10 MHz of broadband spectrum, known as the D-Block; $7 billion in funding to facilitate the build-out of the nationwide network; and a governance model to oversee said build-out.

What's important for public safety officials to remember is that while long-term evolution (LTE) technology, the chosen technology for the national network, is currently available to allow for data sharing, it is at least five years away before it will be able to allow for one-to-many voice capabilities, Riddle told Security Director News. That means public safety officials have to think about what to do with their existing systems until those voice capabilities become available. "A lot of people thought we had voice and didn’t realize the first phase is only data, and thought they didn’t have to fund, maintain or upgrade land mobile radio for emergency communication," Riddle said. "That is one thing that everyone has to come to grips with."