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Upton, FCC Commissioner Discuss Public Safety Communications needs

Interoperable communications to be funded by commercial spectrum

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KALAMAZOO, Mich., August 15, 2014 | Lynn Turner / Nick Culp (269-385-0039 / 202-225-3761) | comments

In the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, when first responders learned they couldn’t communicate with one another on their radios because agencies used different frequencies, the Federal Communications Commission began work to provide a national public safety communications network.  

It was “a critical recommendation” from the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (The 9-11 Commission) to “have interoperability among first responders,” said Congressman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, during a press conference Friday with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. 

“This is of the utmost importance to the safety and well-being of our first responders, not just here in Southwest Michigan but throughout the country,” said Upton, who serves as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over communication and technology issues. 

Upton and Pai met with a dozen representatives of law enforcement agencies throughout the Sixth Congressional District and the director of Michigan’s Public Safety Communications System to talk about the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), its benefits and challenges. 

FirstNet grew from passage of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. It calls for using a portion of the proceeds from commercial spectrum auctions to fund FirstNet and its mission to provide nationwide broadband communications for first responders.  

“No one wants this to fail,” Upton said of the sale. 

Pai agreed. “This will be the first time something like this has been done,” he said. “It is complicated. 

“But, hopefully, with the guidance of public safety officials, we can deliver. I know I will take what I have learned today from my meeting here to heart and let officials in Washington know how this affects people on the ground, those actually using the system as it is today.” 

Kalamazoo Township Police Chief Tim Bourgeois lauded Upton and Pai for listening to local law enforcement leaders about concerns they have as FirstNet rolls out. 

“Fred’s been great to work with on this issue and it’s helped make Michigan a leader in this area. The fact the commissioner came and met with us says volumes about his commitment to get it right,” Bourgeois said. 

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Deputy Chief Karianne Thomas added: “As we look to the future, these are the types of innovations the next generation of public safety officers are going to need in order to do their jobs. We have to give them the right tools.”

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