Originally published: September 15, 2010
Last updated: November 29, 2010 - 11:45am
[Commentary] Police officers and firefighters carry $5,000 radios. Local and state governments spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build public safety radio networks. Yet today, cell phone networks seem to be everywhere, most people carry a mobile phone and many of us think paying $199 for an iPhone is expensive. Why can't cops, firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMT) use cell phones like everyone else? Washington state legislator Reuven Carlyle from Seattle publicly argued recently for this approach in his blog. And at first, this appears to be a simple way for governments to save a lot of taxpayer dollars.
But here are a few reasons public safety officers need their own dedicated networks:
1) Cellular networks don't prioritize their users or traffic. 2) Public safety networks are more reliable than commercial cell phone networks. 3) Even small disasters cause cell phone networks to collapse. 4) A key feature of most government-operated networks is something called talk-around or simplex or "walkie-talkie" mode. In this mode, individual radios talk directly to each other, without using a radio or cell tower. This is very important at incident scenes. 5) No standard cell phone can survive the rigorous work of firefighting or policing.
- Many First Responders Still Struggle To Communicate
- California Law Calls For Stricter Prison Cell Phone Rules
- Apple vs. Gizmodo
- First responder devices still can't talk to each other, Congress told
- AT&T, Verizon Join Police to Fight FCC Airwaves Plan
- Sen. Rockefeller: House 'stopped negotiating with us on spectrum'
- 9 Years After 9/11, Public Safety Radio Not Ready
- Ten years later and still no solution
- Safeguarding Our Future: Building a Nationwide Network for First Responders
- Senate Dems rally behind public safety bill
- Mobile group abandons legal threat to UK broadband plan
- D-Block network won't be available for first responders for a while
- Telecom tussle over public safety
- For a Few Mhz more: Spectrum and Emergency Responders
- FCC, Public Safety At Odds Over Plan