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[May 17, 2014]
Council presented with DPS network [Royse City Herald-Banner, Texas :: ]
(Royse City Herald-Banner (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 11---- The Fate City Council heard a presentation regarding the creation of a new network for the express use of its Department of Public Safety, fire, medical and police units during a regular meeting on Monday night.
Collin County's Chief Information Officer Caren Skipworth and Homeland Security Director Kelly Stone presented the council with a federally-mandated project that would see first responders across the country communicate on spectrum space set aside for their use only.
The DPS currently relies on the same commercial carrier, such as Verizon or AT&T, as the general public. During a disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, the network data quickly becomes used up due to the sheer volume of people getting on their phones to check up on their loved ones, leaving first responders without the capability of using the data to help those in need.
"When we have a disaster, we want to make sure that these first responders have everything within their means to respond data-wise, and it's extremely important," Skipworth said.
Stone said that the new broadband network would not get rid of mobile radios for emergency units, but give them the capability to communicate effectively during emergency situations. He used the Boston Marathon bombing as an example of why the network is needed, stating that after the bomb went off the Boston police, fire and medical LAN mobile radios still worked, but that their data shut down due to a high volume of people using the network to check up on family and friends after the incident.
Since Boston PD uses the same commercial carriers as the general public, they couldn't use their data to correspond with Public Safety.
The new DPS network, called FirstNet, will include 20 megahertz of spectrum space solely for use by EMS, DPS, police and fire units, so that they may have mobile data to quickly respond in emergencies.
"Data can now equate to saving lives," Stone said. "Whether its EMS or firefighters having a floorplan of a building they're going into to fight a fire, that equates to saving lives, but you have to access to the data." Some features included with the network are real-time video, a Public Safety app store, GPS tracking, and facial recognition and fingerprint identification in the field.
The federal government has funded $7 billion to put in the infrastructure, or the core system, throughout the U.S.
Since the spectrum is a Class 14 bandwidth, Stone said they are currently in need of funding for the hardware and equipment capable of running on the network.
"The key for local governments is that it's going to be cost-competitive with your current carriers," Stone said. "So really what you have to think about in planning for the future are those devices that will run on that bandwidth." Collin County currently pays $37.99 per month for Verizon's unlimited data for the county's patrol cars, while Harris County pays $30 per month for its data.
"When we start getting closer to that timeline of knowing what that price is, we'll start getting back with you, but we've got a lot of work before we get there," Skipworth said.
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