Hutchison, Rockefeller Urge FCC to Improve Emergency Communications

Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011 01:03 PM

By Greg McDonald

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Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John D. Rockefeller are calling for improvements in the nation’s emergency communications systems in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and the recent earthquake centered in Virginia.
In a recent letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski, the two noted the lack of a national dedicated system linking emergency responders and public officials across state and federal lines.
The senators also stressed “significant communications failures” during the 5.8 Virginia quake last week put lives as risk.
“As we are now in the midst of hurricane season, the FCC should work to make sure that our nation’s communications infrastructure is up to the task,” wrote Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Hutchison, R-Texas.

“Americans should expect that they can reach their loved ones during an emergency. But our commercial networks are asked to do much more,” they said. “Because first responders still do not have a nationwide wireless broadband network of their own, they must rely on these same commercial networks if they hope to access any mobile data services, such as text messaging and emails.”

Rockefeller, who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Hutchison, the panel’s ranking member, are pushing public safety spectrum legislation that would create the nation’s first interoperable broadband communications network for first responders.

The two told Genachowski, who is putting together an analysis of communications outages associated with Irene and the earthquake, that the recent failures caused by overloaded wireless systems demonstrates the need for more commercial spectrums.

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