By Sid Cassese
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano Monday lent his support to a proposed nationwide broadband telecommunications network for only first responders, instead of one also open for commercial use.
"The lessons learned from 9/11 show that we have to do more in communications to have our people respond better to these disasters, man-made and natural," Mangano told nearly 200 people at a New York State Chiefs of Police meeting at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Uniondale.
"This new 700-megahertz system makes these communications more effective, more efficient and more secure . . . and it will save lives," Mangano said.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) agreed. "To those who say we cannot afford to do this now, I say we can't afford not to," he said. "Our nation's first responders cannot afford to be faced by another Sept. 11 or Hurricane Katrina without the necessary communications tools that they require to carry out their mission."
King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue in Washington Wednesday.
Several versions of a bill for this D-Block radio spectrum system are before Congress, and there is some debate on whether it should be for only first responders.
The spectrum system is intended to provide a nationwide base for a public-safety radio network, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission. To help pay for building costs of up to $48 billion for the network, the Federal Communications Commission planned an auction that paves the way for the spectrum's shared use by first responders and the public. But first responders have argued for continuous use.
Police, including NYPD deputy chief Charles Dowd at Monday's meeting, have said the new system could allow officers to, for example, receive details before arriving at a location, send or receive digital pictures of suspects and take and compare fingerprints at a scene.
Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said his company had no comment. Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman, said his company backs the first responder plan.
"AT&T has long supported reallocating the D-block to public safety," he said.