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Canadians wait for U.S. on public safety network

By Howard Solomon
September 21, 2011 10:48 AM ET

Computerworld - Canadian public safety agencies hoping the U.S. budget fight doesn't kill a plan to create a national wireless network for first responders. If the Americans don't set aside spectrum in the 700 MHz block for the network, then Canadian plans to create a mirror service will likely die.

"A lot is riding on the U.S. and what they'll do," says Supt. Pascal Rodier of the British Columbia Ambulance Service, co-chair of the committee representing Canadian chiefs of police, fire departments and ambulance services that have banded together to lobby the federal government on a dedicated cellular network.

"I don't think anyone's going to commit (here) until we know that the Americans are going to do. We were hoping by now they would have made their decision."

The idea of Canadian cellular network has been urged by the federal Public Safety department in addition to emergency agencies. Ottawa is still mulling over its plans for a 700 MHz auction. But telecom carriers here have asked the government wait until the U.S. has decided if it will set aside 700 MHz spectrum in the D-block, as has been urged there for years. Supporters here may not have long to wait. Last week as part of a new jobs plan, President Barack Obama proposed setting aside the D-block for the public safety network, creating an independent agency to run it and giving it US$50 million towards its eventual US$10 billion construction.

The proposal will be dealt with by a special Congressional committee scheduled to report to Congress by Nov. 23 on deficit reduction. However, there are members of Congress that oppose giving away valuable spectrum instead of auctioning it. It is also opposed by some public safety agencies there that wouldn't be included in the network.

It is conceivable that the proposal -- which in a similar form was bought to Congress over a year ago and got nowhere -- will get voted down in a country torn between cutting the deficit and spending to ease the recession.

The public saftey network would allow agencies for the first time to share voice, video and data from crime and emergency scenes to speed their ability to save lives and property. Not only can it be important for a police or fireman to transmit live video from a cellphone or tablet at an emergency to a command centre, Rodier points out, it would be helpful to pull together feeds from video cameras on streets, in buses or in schools.

Canadian emergency workers would like spectrum to mirror that south of the border so public saftey agencies could communicate with each other.

Originally published on www.itworldcanada.com. Click here to read the original story.


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