News

Eshoo calls for national first-responder network

Lack of interoperable system 'unacceptable' 10 years after 9/11, Eshoo says

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, took the anniversary of Sept. 11 to call for enactment of a nationwide interoperable communication network for first responders in emergencies.

Lack of such a system was held responsible for many deaths in the Twin Towers explosions, as well as in Hurricane Katrina, as first responders, working with antiquated systems, could not share critical information.

Eshoo said she has drafted, but not formally introduced, legislation in collaboration with U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles. The proposal is similar to legislation proposed by U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, which calls for reallocating radio spectrum to public safety agencies and providers of wireless broadband.

Obstacles include financing, agency turf battles and methods for reallocating broadcast spectrum.

"On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a fitting tribute to our first responders, who fought so bravely to save lives and lost their own, is to provide them with a nationwide, interoperable broadband communications network," Eshoo said in a statement this week.

"Congress should act decisively and quickly to address the unacceptable situation which remains in place a decade since the attack on our country.

"Other events since that day, including Hurricane Katrina and the Virginia Tech shootings, have continued to highlight why first responders need a nationwide, interoperable network to be able to seamlessly communicate with each other using any device."

— Palo Alto Online staff

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by RadioGuy
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm

RadioGuy is a registered user.

I'm certain 99.99% of the people reading this article have no idea what Rep. Eshoo is talking about. Generally, I'm supportive of Eshoo and think she does a reasonable job as our Congressional Representative. But in this case Ms. Eshoo will put US taxpayers on the hook for tens of billions of dollars by promising to build a national wireless network that's only usable by public safety agencies, if it works at all. Furthermore, it's almost certainly unnecessary.

As part of the transition to digital TV, UHF channels 52 through 69 were taken and re-purposed for other uses. Some portion of the old TV channels were broken up into five "blocks" and parceled out in different geographical regions across the country. The blocks were given letter designations "A" through "E". Four of the blocks were sold in a complex auction in 2008, primarily to large cellular companies which are planning (AT&T) or already building (Verizon) an LTE (Long Term Evolution) phone and high speed data network. The smallest 10MHz blocks suitable for two-way data and phone communication in two 5MHz segments, the "D" block, failed to attract the minimum bid set by the FCC. This block remains unlicensed to any company or provider.

The "D" block happens to be located right next to the allocation that the FCC had designated for "public safety wireless" services. Originally, this was intended for local public safety agencies building regional networks. This allocation is also in two 5MHz segments, one for base to mobile and one for mobile to base. Large blocks of radio spectrum are necessary to move huge chunks of data at high speed. Having the blocks contiguous in the radio spectrum makes building a maintaining such a network much more cost effective. This is why the large carriers paid billions of dollars for the bigger blocks in the auction.

When the FCC failed to generated the promised "D" block revenue, they came up with a new plan. Their idea was to lower the minimum bid for the "D" block in return for promise of public/private partnership that would piggyback on the adjacent public safety spectrum. Of course, none of the large carriers were interested since they already had other blocks and only Verizon's was immediately adjacent to the "D" block spectrum.

Realizing that they were not going make billions of dollars selling equipment to public safety agencies, several large communications companies including Motorola started to lobby national public safety leaders with a plan for a "nationwide wireless public safety only network". Public safety leaders loved the idea because LTE providers refuse to give public safety agencies override and priority on their public phone and data wireless networks during an emergency. Large communications companies loved the idea because they know it's very difficult to build a multi-band phone and data handset that will work over the entire partitioned TV spectrum. Thus, the same vendors could continue to lock in public safety agencies to specialized equipment for years to come.

The plan for the nationwide public safety wireless network really started to come together when everybody realized that the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 was happening soon. The only problem was that original revenue promised by the "D" block auction wasn't going into the US Treasury. In fact, the new plan would cost billions and billions of dollars to build the network, and billions more to pay for the equipment and still billions more to maintain it. So, the cover story became an urgent need for interoperability among public safety agencies and critical requirements to upgrade antiquated radio systems. This was the same story printed on the front page of the SJMercury earlier in the week.

The problem, of course, is that none of the narrative is really true. NYFD's radio system because overloaded because thousands of firefighters rushed to help. WTC wasn't required to have an building repeater system for firefighters, so a lot of radio traffic was missed and needed to be repeated, compounding the communications problems. When the towers fell, so did the main radio antenna for NYFD. Finally, one of the collapses crushed NYFD's mobile communications center and killed much of the fire department's top command structure.

Ms Eshoo's proposal for building a nationwide public safety only wireless network makes no sense. It solves none of the issues that were at the heart of the communications failure that occurred on 9/11. It's simply a proposal to funnel more money to well connected big companies and wrapped in an American flag.


Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 9, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Perhaps Ms. Eshoo could work on getting the PA and MP fire departments to more effectively coordinating responses to emergencies- like work together.


Like this comment
Posted by She-Has-No-Clue
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2011 at 11:57 am

> I'm certain 99.99% of the people reading this article have no
> idea what Rep. Eshoo is talking about.

And that is true for about 99.99% of every thing Eshoo talks about, too.


Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

"And that is true for about 99.99% of every thing Eshoo talks about, too."

Ahhhhh, just the mere mention of the name "Eshoo" brings out the haters and their hyperbole! They come out, all dozen of them and rant, rave and gesture wildly (one assumes) while typing fact-less drivel.

They are a small, very vocal mini-minority of a fringe who are very sad, mad and angry. Very angry because they, as that far fringe, will never be represented in the Bay Area by a like minded whacko.

The Bay Area is represented by the Democratic Party. The GOP is almost dead in California. Yet they keep moving further right, alienating moderates and independents. One thinks they would have learned.

So long California GOP. Take your anger and hate and move to Texas.


Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 10, 2011 at 12:37 pm

John

"getting the PA and MP fire departments to more effectively coordinating responses"

That's a local issue. Ask Carpenter who would be the best authority to drive that action.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 10, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Granted the GOP is dead in California, the Tea Party isn't.


Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2011 at 9:09 am

The "tea party" is just a small subset of the gop. A group of misguided, angry folk being used by uber lobbyist Dick Army and his Koch funded Freedomworks.

In this area, a fringe of the fringe.

How many tea baggers hold statewide office in CA? National office from CA?


Like this comment
Posted by Billy bob
a resident of Portola Valley
on Sep 11, 2011 at 12:57 pm

why can't i post on this thread


Like this comment
Posted by Charlie
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 11, 2011 at 1:17 pm

That's why we only have 15% approval rating for these folks on the hill. Could be even lower by now...


Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm

svatoid is a registered user.

"Granted the GOP is dead in California, the Tea Party isn't."

Anyone surprised that Walter loves the Tea Party?

Web Link
"Placards at rallies have depicted President Barack Obama as a witch doctor, denounced his supposed plans for "white slavery," and likened Congress to a slave owner and the taxpayer to a "n----r.""
"The data suggests that people who are Tea Party supporters have a higher probability"—25 percent, to be exact—"of being racially resentful than those who are not Tea Party supporters,"


Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2011 at 1:21 pm

svatoid is a registered user.

and

Web Link
"These and other unsurprising revelations are part of a NY Times poll released this week which reinforces the ugly truth about the role racism plays in the Tea Party movement.
Contrary to how the movement is portrayed as a non-partisan, multicultural, age/gender-diverse "big tent," most Tea Baggers are wealthy, white Republican males over 45, according to the poll. The poll chillingly illustrates what's really at the core of the movement: intense frustration, anger and resentment over the belief that a black president is giving taxpayer handouts to other blacks."


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The race card - the last refuge of scoundrels.
"The data suggests that people who are Tea Party supporters have a higher probability"—25 percent, to be exact—"of being racially resentful than those who are not Tea Party supporters,"
"most Tea Baggers are wealthy, white Republican males over 45, according to the poll"
According to whose poll? One of those "You tell us what you want to prove and we'll give you the numbers"?
The lack of any real proof leads to invention of "proof".
Might as well try to justify 700,000 deaths.


Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm

The race card - the last refuge of scoundrels.---
Walter, I am not playing the race card. I am providing links to reports of racism in the Tea Party. I guess for a person like you the easiest thing to do is to pooh pooh it all away by saying people are "playing the race card".

According to whose poll?--
WHose poll? I provided the link, why don't you go and find out. But to help you along one poll was from the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality another from the New York times.

The lack of any real proof leads to invention of "proof"---
The real proof is provided in the links and there are plenty more. The incidents are not invented. Of course, since you cannot defend them without betraying your own feelings regarding non-aryans, it is easy to say that they did not occur or were invented.

Might as well try to justify 700,000 deaths.----
We are not going there again, Walt. I think I made my point on that matter. If you want to still stew about being exposed, then have at it


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Back to the ISSUE: Public safety -- police and fire, and personnel from different jurisdictions who may be providing mutual aid in a disaster, CANNOT COMMUNICATE AND COORDINATE because they don't have shared radio frequencies.

Hence, scores of unnecessary deaths in 9/11 and every year in other emergencies and disasters. Remember New Orleans? CA forest fires? LA riots? LOMA PRIETA???????

When our next big earthquake strikes the Bay Area, emergency personnel will not be able to coordinate via radio. So, they may not be able to answer your call for help or they may get killed trying to get to a call.

This has nothing to do with politics Tea Party or otherwise. And HAM radio isn't the answer
--- it's a simple coordination issue whose solution is OVERDUE.


Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm

You would have thought that after the 9/11 fiasco in NYC with the NYPD and the FD there would have been something done.


Like this comment
Posted by NewEMT
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 13, 2011 at 9:10 am

No doubt about it, some sort of nationwide communications network must be established for first responders. If officials want to cut funding for public safety services, who's going to save them from a motor vehicle accident? A fall? what about the little old lady in respiratory distress? It's these people that need the EMS system the most, and to take it away from them is, frankly, unconstitutional.


Like this comment
Posted by Pam
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 13, 2011 at 9:21 am

As a longtime Democrat, I'm constantly disappointed by Congresswoman Eshoo. It seems that she's not too bright and is easily manipulated by special interests, in this case Motorola and other manufacturers of two-way radio equipment. Last year, she did the bidding of big Pharma by trying to insert a provision in the health care law that would make it harder for generics of sophisticated medical treatments to hit the market. She also is a proponent of 211, a hotline people can call to sign up for various public assistance programs. I have nothing against public assistance. In fact I think it is very necessary in some cases when people are unable to care for themselves. But having a hotline makes it look like the government is trying to recruit people to get on welfare, opening up such programs to very easy shots from conservatives. And then there's her famous turn-down-the-commercial law, that she was so proud of. Sadly, none of the legislation I mention here has much relevance to her district. She never really brought home the bacon, even when Democrats controlled the House. Now that we have Open Primaries, where all candidates run in the same primary in June 2012, I hope another Democrat, one who is far more locally oriented, step forward and challenge her. Twenty years for anyone in Congress is really too long. We need new blood.


Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2011 at 9:29 am

Pam - who should replace Eshoo?

You are complaining about her not bringing home the bacon when the opposition wants to end medicare and give out coupons, privatize Social Security, keep tax breaks for corporate and private jets, outlaw a woman's right to choose, dismantle the social safety net, make more free trade deals and ship jobs overseas, drill off the coast, allow billionaires to buy elections with undisclosed donations, etc..

Yes, even tea baggers complain when commercials are too loud.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Please return the the issue rather than going off on unrelated/partisan/hostile tangents.

The issue: Eshoo is trying to solve an extremely relevant safety problem that affects us locally and on a broader scale: She wants the emergency response radio frequencies mess fixed so that, in a disaster, responders can coordinate and communicate withr each other.

No politics here. Just safety. Ask the widows of the 9/11 fire fighters who couldn't be reached to hear evacuation orders.

As I pointed out earlier -- coordinated radio frequencies would have saved lives in 9/11 and in many other disasters, including ones that have happened in the Bay Area. When emergency responders can't communicate with each other, people die. It could be you or your family too.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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