Yesterday the FCC did something a little weird. One week after putting up for public comment Cyren Call’s proposal to revamp public safety communications, it rejected the petition but also decided to keep the commenting open. Quite admirably, the Commission cites lack of authority from Congress. What’s weird is that they didn’t decide to reject the petition during the three months they sat on it before putting out for comment. Also weird are the post-decision comments, which will now have another audience: Congress.
In the new issue of Regulation magazine I explain the depth of the public safety interoperability problem and how we might go about tackling it.
In some parts of Europe, private enterprise builds and maintains the public safety network and sells interoperable communications capacity to the agencies there. A similar approach could be pursued in the United States. The government could allow private carriers to build advanced networks on frequencies that it now restricts to public safety use. Instead of building their own incompatible and duplicative networks, agencies and jurisdiction could purchase their communications needs from the private carriers. Because public safety communications typically use very little communications capacity, the carriers could sell space on the network to private entities without interfering with emergency communications.
This a warm-up to a paper I’m writing for FCLJ symposium on public safety interoperability that the Mercatus Center and GMU’s Tech Center are co-sponsoring. The event will take place Dec. 8 at GMU School of Law. Cyren Call’s Morgan O’Brien will be one of the panelists. Event details here.