The hearing will examine the current and future capabilities of public safety communications systems and will explore a number of proposals designed to improve the interoperability of voice communications systems and to provide public safety with new broadband capabilities.
Daniel K. InouyeSenatorToday’s hearing will focus on the present and future of public safety communications. This is a matter of continuing importance to our nation, and to the men and women who risk their lives daily to provide Americans with emergency assistance.In too many cities and counties across this nation, our nation’s first responders struggle to talk to one another during natural or manmade disasters. Unfortunately, this problem is not new. More than a decade ago, a specially- created Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee reported on the need for immediate measures to alleviate spectrum shortfalls and to promote voice interoperability.While we have made significant strides since that time, one need only look at our experience during the events of September 11, and the Northeast blackouts in 2003, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, to know that we still have a long way to go.In 2005, the Commerce Committee took an important step by creating a new $1 billion grant program to help fund new equipment and training necessary to improve communications interoperability. Regrettably our efforts to make progress on this problem are being undermined by the Administration, which is using this money, already in the pipeline, to hide the $1.2 billion dollar cut from the Department of Homeland Security grants that support state and local preparedness and firefighter assistance. I hope and trust that Congress can do better in this regard.In the 110th congress, I have begun by working with my colleagues Senators Stevens, Kerry, Smith and Snowe, by introducing S. 385 -- the Interoperable Emergency Communications Act -- which would eliminate current restrictions in the law that hinder some interoperability efforts and would provide the National Telecommunications and Information Administration with needed guidance from Congress to ensure the money is effectively dispersed.I hope that we will move quickly on this bill in the coming weeks.Today’s hearing allows us to peer into the future of public safety communications. By now, even the casual observer recognizes how broadband networks are changing the way in which we communicate and exchange information.Our children lead the way, using the power of new technology to provide streaming video and real-time information to our home and work computers, and increasingly, to mobile devices on-the-go. It does not take much imagination to realize how invaluable these capabilities could be to those first on the scene of an emergency.Such technology could send streaming video to command posts in the aftermath of a hurricane, could assess environmental conditions faced by firefighters responding to a chemical fire, and could transmit the vital signs of injured victims to those providing emergency medical assistance.To realize this future, we must prepare for it. This hearing raises the most important questions this committee will face:
- Do we as a nation have a broadband plan for public safety?
Now is the time for this discussion. In February 2009, broadcasters will complete the digital television transition and will open significant amounts of new spectrum for commercial and public safety use. Our current plans for the use of that spectrum were adopted nearly a decade ago. Given the stakes, it is worth taking a fresh look.
- Do our first responders have the resources, both in spectrum and in funding, to build and operate networks that will enhance emergency response capabilities?
Ted StevensSenatorI applaud Chairman Inouye for scheduling this hearing examining public safety issues. We have had a focus on this subject for sometime and I want to join you in continuing that focus.This Committee led the way in establishing a hard date to transfer 24 MHz of spectrum to public safety and allocated $1 billion for interoperability grants last year as part of our DTV bill. Other public safety issues addressed by our Committee were the creation of a wireless alert and warning system and a Tsunami warning system. We also allocated $43.5 million for E-911 system and $100 million for national alert system and funded the tsunami warning system.Going forward now I am pleased that Chairman Inouye decided that interoperability would be one of the first bills that we introduced this year and I am proud to join him as a co-sponsor. It will provide grant guidance for the $1 billion interoperability grants that we provided last year. Those funds will drive the public safety community forward in resolving the interoperability issues through planning, training and equipment grants as well as the establishment of technology reserves throughout the country.Chairman Inouye also has highlighted 911 issues as important issues this Congress by agreeing to mark up S. 93 next week. S. 93 will provide advanced borrowing authority so that the $43 million tagged for the 911 concept can be distributed to public safety before the DTV auction takes place.The Cyren Call broadband trust is going to be one of the topics addressed here today. It sounds like something good - in concept – could be good for public safety. I have had a considerable number of questions raised as to whether this broadband trust proposal may undermine the progress on the DTV transition and interoperability grant distribution. They have expressed fear that this program could undermine the funding that we provided for public safety last Congress. I hope that we can have an opportunity to examine into this now and explore with the proponents of that concept alternative models that would not do what these people fear. Thank you very much.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Charles WernerFire ChiefCharlottesville Fire Department / International Association of Fire Chiefs
Public Safety Broadband TrustStatement byFire Chief Charles L. Wernerbefore theCommittee on Commerce, Science & TransportationUnited States SenateFebruary 8, 2007INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE CHIEFS4025 FAIR RIDGE DRIVE • FAIRFAX, VA 22033-2868TEL 703.273.0911 • FAX 703.273.9363Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I am Charles Werner, Fire Chief of the Charlottesville Fire Department in Virginia and a member of the Communications Committee of the International Association of Fire Chiefs IAFC). I am appearing today as the representative of the International Association of Fire Chiefs whose 12,000 members represent the leadership of America’s fire and rescue service from small, rural, volunteer fire departments to the large, urban, metropolitan fire departments. Last year America’s fire service responded to over 23 million fire and emergency calls covering incidents of structure fires, wildland/urban interface fires, emergency medical situations, hazardous materials incidents, technical rescues, and natural disasters. We are prepared, as well, to respond to the aftermath of terrorist attacks. I appear today to address a specific and growing communications need for America’s fire service – broadband technology. Our testimony also reflects the views of the Association of Public-Safety Officials International, Inc.PUBLIC SAFETY SPECTRUM NEEDSAt the request of Congress, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC) to define and document the critical need for communications resources and the spectrum to support public safety through the year 2010. The final report was released on September 11, 1996. Three key problem areas were identified in the report:
- First, radio frequencies allocated to public safety had become highly congested in many, especially urban, areas. Usable spectrum for mobile operations is limited making it difficult to meet existing requirements much less to plan for future, more advanced communications needs.
- Second, the ability of agencies within and between jurisdictions to communicate with one another is limited. Yet interoperability is desirable for success in
- day-to-day operations as well as larger scale operations in dealing with both man-made and natural disasters.
To implement the requirements identified, the advisory committee determined that more spectrum was required, as follows:
- Third, public safety agencies lack the spectrum to implement advanced communications features. A wide variety of technologies – both existing and under development – hold substantial promise to reduce danger to public safety and achieve greater efficiencies in the performance of their duties. Specifically mentioned in the 1996 report were broadband data systems, video systems for better capabilities including use of robotics in toxic and hazardous environments, and better monitoring and tracking of both personnel and equipment.
These were the needs and recommendations addressed in the PSWAC report of 1996. Then, in December 2005 the FCC sent a Report to Congress On the Study to Assess Short-Term and Long-Term Needs for Allocations of Additional Portions of the Electromagnetic Spectrum for Federal, State and Local Emergency Response Providers. This report was submitted pursuant to P.L. 108-458, The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. In its conclusion, the FCC stated: “First, as to the operation and administration of a potential nationwide interoperable broadband mobile communications network based upon input from federal, state, local and regional emergency response providers, emergency response providers would benefit from the development of an integrated, interoperable nationwide network capable of delivering broadband services throughout the country. Second, as to the use of commercial wireless technologies, while commercial wireless technologies and services are not appropriate for every type of public safety communication, there may now be a place for commercial providers to assist public safety in securing and protecting the homeland.”For the above stated reasons, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council [a resource and advocate for public safety organizations in the United States on matters relating to public safety telecommunications] has filed comments with the FCC in support of reallocating 30 MHz of spectrum in the upper 700 MHz band, currently slated for auction, to create a public/private nationwide broadband network to be managed by public safety for the benefit of public safety. The filing states: “In an era where government preparedness is crucial, there is no nationwide public safety network to manage and coordinate response. There is no wide scale broadband technology capability to expedite analysis and information sharing critical to emergency assistance, investigation and apprehension. Not only is the current public safety spectrum so congested as to constrain voice—much less permit broadband use for video and data, limited funding hinders the incremental improvements that can be made and which are only pursued on a system by system basis. That which is possible in communications today and what public safety agencies have available reflects an enormous divide. The result is tangible: slowed and hindered response across all services which puts lives at risk and property in danger.“Although legacy systems will continue to play an important role in public safety communications, the opportunity presented by the yet to be auctioned 700 MHz channels is emphatic. Without this additional spectrum, there can be no national public safety network connecting all agencies. Using broadband technologies to transmit information across agencies and miles immediately will be the exception. Public safety communications will come up short in meeting its challenges.”The IAFC is a member of the governing board of NPSTC and an active participant in all of its proceedings. The IAFC fully concurs with the statements of support by NPSTC for the establishment of a nation-wide, public/private, broadband network that will harness the innovative power of the private sector but be managed by public safety for the benefit of public safety.PUBLIC SAFETY BROADBAND REQUIREMENTSIn 1997, Congress addressed part of the issue of additional spectrum by directing the FCC to allocate 24 MHz in the upper 700 MHz band for use by public safety. As a result of the Deficit Reduction Act (P.L. 109-171), which passed last year at this time, this spectrum will finally become available for our use in February 2009. As was originally intended, it is to provide, for individual licensees, 12 MHz of voice channels and 12 MHz of wideband data channels. Fire and police departments are now in the planning process of building communications systems utilizing this new spectrum.Broadband capability for public safety, identified in the 1996 PSWAC report, is a vital and growing need for fire and police agencies. It is the next step following the allocation and implementation of the 24 MHz designed to alleviate current spectrum congestion and provide interoperability. To meet the broadband need for public safety, the following requirements are established:
- Immediately, 2.5 MHz of spectrum for interoperability from new or existing allocations.
- Within five years approximately 25 MHz of new public safety allocations are needed. The report suggested using spectrum from television broadcast channels 60–69 as soon as possible.
- Over the next 15 years (e.g. through 2011) as much as an additional 70 MHz will be required to satisfy the mobile communications needs of public safety.
- A nationwide, broadband network covering 99% of the population, 65% of the land mass, most of the critical infrastructure, and a network that supports urban, suburban and rural communities.
- A network large enough to draw commercial support which is requisite for a nationwide network to be affordable for public safety.
- A network built using next generation technology.
- A network built to public safety ruggedness specifications to ensure reliability under severely adverse conditions.
- A network governed by public safety.
PUBLIC SAFETY USES OF NATIONWIDE BROADBAND NETWORKThe Public Safety Broadband Trust proposal provides public safety with enormous potential that does not currently exist.A hardened public safety network would make possible nationwide roaming and interoperability for public safety agencies at the federal (e.g. U.S. Coast Guard), state (e.g. highway patrol), and local (e.g. police, fire/EMS) levels. It would give public safety access to satellite services where terrestrial services either do not exist or are temporarily out of service. The network build-out would give rural areas – for the first time – broadband coverage and provided public safety there a communications tool that would be virtually impossible because of cost under any other scenario. In addition, this new network will protect nuclear power plants, dams, railroads and pipelines and other parts of the nation’s critical infrastructure in rural areas.There are a number of technologies that are available today that fire departments would use – more will be developed, especially if an affordable broadband network is available. Some examples are:
- A network which ensures priority access for public safety.
- Transmitting video, photographs, blueprints and other information both to and from an incident command post.
- Advanced paging systems particularly useful for summoning volunteer firefighters/medics.
- Mesh enabled architecture (MEA) for non-GPS broadband location system.
- Fireground accountability systems – biometrics as well as location.
- Smart building downloads enroute to an alarm.
- Enhanced GIS mapping capability for building locations, critical infrastructure, target hazards, water systems, transportation systems, etc.
- Personal Area Networks linking a portable radio carried by a firefighter to many useful and lifesaving accessories including a helmet video camera, video viewing device, health monitor, wireless self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) microphone and speaker, or a handheld computer.
- Vehicular Area Networks that could link a vehicle’s radio to laptop computers, printers, remote headsets, bar code readers, and cameras.
- Medical video and high-resolution image transmissions from the scene of an incident to the emergency department of a hospital where physicians can assess patient status and give on-scene and enroute treatment instructions.
A ONE-TIME OPPORTUNITY TO DO THE RIGHT THINGSenator McCain has announced his intension to introduced legislation to establish a Public Safety Broadband Trust. The trust will be composed of public safety organizations to hold a single license for 30 MHz of broadband spectrum to create a nationwide, public/private broadband network. The trust also will be the management group to oversee the policies, procedures and practices of the network. In other words, the public safety trust will run the network for the benefit of public safety.The 30 MHz of spectrum that is being considered is immediately adjacent to the 24 MHz of spectrum allocated to public safety in 1997 and which will be available in 2009. This has considerable advantage over any other spectrum since radio communication devices can be dual purpose with the spectrum so close. This spectrum in the upper 700 MHz is also near existing public safety which is being relocated in the lower 800 MHz band.This 30 MHz of spectrum is currently slated for auction. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 requires the FCC to auction this spectrum by January 2008. Without legislation taking this out of the auction and allocating it for the public safety trust, this one-time opportunity will be lost forever.CALL FOR ACTIONThe Congress of the United States has a one-time opportunity, in the near term, to provide public safety with a nationwide, broadband network. In order to be affordable for public safety, the network would have to have viable commercial capacity of about 30 MHz of spectrum. The network would be built to public safety ruggedness specifications. A Public Safety Broadband Trust would be created to hold the single license from the FCC for the 30 MHz of spectrum and would oversee management of the network. While the network volume would be largely commercial, public safety agencies would use what it needed with a built-in priority status. Commercial use also ensures that sufficient capital will be available for maintaining the system and upgrading and refreshing newer technologies when they come along.We urge the members of this committee to take the first action to create this Public Safety Broadband Trust by promptly reporting legislation to take 30 MHz from the pending auction and direct the FCC to reallocate it to public safety. We cannot suggest too strongly the urgent and identified need for broadband capability that public safety can use with assurance that it will work when needed, be available when needed, and is affordable. With a global war on terrorism being fought daily and homeland security interest at an all-time high, public safety, in defense of the homeland, should be operating on 21st Century technology. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee. We appreciate your consideration of this most important public safety issue.
- PDAs for fire department leaders or for all firefighters.
Mr. Harlin R. McEwenChairmanCommunications and Technology Committee, International Association of Chiefs of Police
Mr. Morgan O'BrienChairmanCyren CallTestimony of
Morgan O’Brien, Chairman
Cyren Call Communications
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
United States SenateFebruary 8, 2007
Good morning Chairman Inouye, Vice Chairman Stevens, Members of the Committee. My name is Morgan O’Brien. I am the Chairman of Cyren Call Communications Corporation. Prior to forming Cyren Call last year, I spent eighteen years as a founder of Nextel Communications, Inc. I served most recently as Vice Chairman of Nextel prior to its merger with Sprint Corporation.Historically, Congress and the FCC have treated the communications requirements of the public safety and commercial communities as separate and distinct. As a result, public safety increasingly has been left behind while commercial service providers have revolutionized the telecommunications capabilities of the nation. The challenge before us today is how to correct this imbalance, since 9/11 taught us that we are all one nation facing a new threat. To meet this threat, public safety must have the same extraordinary capabilities that consumers already are beginning to enjoy on commercial broadband networks.The nation’s emergency response providers are being asked to take on ever expanded duties with limited human and financial resources. Improved technology is key to enabling that workforce to keep pace with those responsibilities. This Committee has repeatedly recognized the importance of broadband for the general public. The nation’s most essential users, the individuals who protect our persons and property, also have a paramount need to access the almost mind-boggling capabilities that can be delivered on an advanced wireless broadband network. We must identify an approach that at last will permit public safety users to be at the forefront of this nation’s telecommunications revolution.On April 27, 2006, Cyren Call filed a comprehensive proposal with the FCC in which it recommended the creation of a nationwide, wireless broadband network for public safety and commercial use employing an innovative public sector-private sector partnership and funding method. In my opinion, and as indicated by the public safety representatives who address you today, this shared 30 MHz governmental/commercial network at 700 MHz, described more fully below, is the only technically and financially viable solution for the following reasons:· First, those who protect our lives and property should be using best-in-class, state-of-the-art wireless technology, and all too frequently they are not. Both spectrum and financial limitations act as barriers to that objective.· Second, the nation’s public safety mobile capabilities must be upgraded as the FCC has reported on several occasions over the past few years. The public safety community’s expanded responsibilities require a nationwide, interoperable broadband network at 700 MHz. Comments filed by thousands of public safety representatives in response to several recent FCC proceedings confirm that they embrace the idea of a 700 MHz broadband public safety network.· Third, the realities of local, state and even federal funding constraints make it clear that the public sector – on its own – cannot finance a broadband network with the necessary geographic coverage and technical capabilities. Indeed, earlier this week, the administration proposed sharp cuts in FY 2008 grants for first responders. And even if such a network could be built with taxpayer dollars – a daunting assumption that requires the availability of tens of billions of dollars for that purpose alone - the ongoing cost of operating, maintaining and continuously upgrading it to keep pace with technological improvements vastly exceeds available public funding sources.· Fourth, more than twenty-five years of commercial wireless deployment has also made it clear that no business case has emerged to induce commercial carriers to build out their networks beyond areas of relative population density, even though substantial spectrum has been made available for that purpose. Yet, the individuals in those communities still require police, fire, emergency medical and other vital governmental services. Moreover, they deserve access to the same wireless broadband technology that is transforming peoples’ lives and their ways of conducting business in more urban markets.The considerable time I have spent over the past years with police, fire, EMS and other emergency response providers, those serving rural, sparsely populated communities as well as those in major urban areas, has given me a deep appreciation for their truly unique communications requirements. Access to tomorrow’s broadband devices will be essential, for example, to enable police officers to have real-time (streaming) video of a crime scene or major disaster as it unfolds. That type of situational awareness will give first responders a quantum leap in intelligence, a 21st century equivalent to body armor.Just as important, it is becoming increasingly clear that the nation needs a secure
wireless broadband network to meet the needs of the critical infrastructure community, upon which our economy and well-being depend. Their access to a secure broadband network, in times of national threat or emergency will be a vital enhancement to the nation’s security.At Nextel I had hands-on experience building a commercial wireless network from the ground up, while also converting operations from analog to digital technology. I know what is required to finance, deploy, operate, maintain and upgrade a top-quality, large-scale wireless network. Even with that experience, I do not underestimate the even greater challenge of building a nationwide broadband network to the more demanding public safety specifications and fully appreciate that the commitment, of necessity, is long-term. But it must be started now and started right. If public safety is to enjoy the advanced capabilities it needs and deserves, its wireless devices must be developed in conjunction with the right technology platform, not retrofitted to conform to a system built to less stringent commercial standards.It is the combination of these factors that led to the creation of Cyren Call and its work with the public safety community in developing the concept of a governmental/commercial shared 30 MHz broadband network at 700 MHz, the license for which would be held by the Public Safety Broadband Trust (PSBT). The PSBT would consist of representatives of a broad variety of local, state and federal governmental entities and organizations. Excess capacity on the 30 MHz would be leased to commercial carriers for entirely commercial service in exchange for building, maintaining, operating and upgrading the network in accordance with specifications established by the PSBT. The PSBT proposal contemplates that public safety entities would pay for their own subscriber equipment and for system access. However, they would avoid the infrastructure costs that require extraordinary bond or other taxpayer measures, measures that take years to effectuate and, at best, provide individual organizations with equipment that already may be outdated by the time it is deployed, and which then cannot be upgraded for years or decades without additional taxpayer funding. Instead, the PSBT approach would mirror the commercial approach to network upgrades; public safety technology would be refreshed routinely in accordance with the demands of the consumer marketplace, although always consistent with the PSBT specifications as well. Public safety also would enjoy the cost economies of subscriber devices produced in volume for the broader consumer market, economies that continue to drive down the cost of cell phones and other wireless products.The result would be a nationwide broadband network available to serve both public safety entities and the general public. It would not replace existing public safety voice facilities, but would provide access to a state-of-the-art system built specifically to public safety standards. On a day-to-day basis, the great majority of capacity would be devoted to commercial usage. While public and private wireless operations traditionally have been viewed as incompatible, the 21st century network contemplated in the PSBT proposal permits rational shared use. The first commercial subscribers are likely to be a combination of users such as utilities with more demanding public safety-like requirements and first adopters who want access to the most advanced technology available. However during emergencies, whether of a local, statewide, regional or even nationwide scope, increased access and capacity would automatically be dedicated for emergency response provider purposes on a scaled basis as dictated by the event. Of course, the rules of the road with respect to preemption would be established in advance by the PSBT so that those transmitting less critical communications would know to anticipate some disruption during those events. Those with vital transmissions, network users at the local, state and federal levels, would have immediate, seamless interoperability. Public safety agencies operating on their own systems in other bands also could be provided with interoperability through IP-based gateway patches that would reside on the network and use its IP backbone resources.The operation of this network would represent a substantial challenge for commercial wireless veterans and will require careful oversight by the PSBT, whose members are not professional network operators. The legislation therefore permits, but most certainly does not require, the PSBT to hire personnel or enter into contracts with parties that bring skills critical to the network’s success. Cyren Call believes it has the qualifications to take on important responsibilities vis-à-vis the network and has raised capital in anticipation of responding to any PSBT management services request for proposal. However, I will state here for the record what I have stated publicly and repeatedly since filing the proposal with the FCC in April 2006: Cyren Call is not asking for a guarantee of any ongoing role with respect to the PSBT or this 700 MHz spectrum. All such decisions will remain firmly in the hands of the PSBT, participation in which will be limited exclusively to public safety/governmental organizations.Representatives of the nation’s police and fire officers have explained to the Committee their critical need for broadband capability on a national scale. They have described some of the functions that cannot be introduced on their current radio systems, but that would be available on a 30 MHz broadband network. Public safety officers are hampered today by not having access to features such as streaming video, large file downloads (e.g., building diagrams and architectural plans), remote database access and multi-media messaging capability. And these are the capabilities that we already know are needed. The history of telecommunications teaches us that the introduction of improved technologies spawns applications and functionalities even beyond those originally anticipated. Who could have anticipated in 1983 when the first analog cellular system was activated that subscribers in 2007 would be using their “phones” to take pictures, watch television, read emails and maintain calendars? It is not possible to envision today all of the uses to which emergency response providers and commercial subscribers will put this broadband network since the only limits will be those of entrepreneurial ingenuity. However, a compelling advantage of this public/private broadband partnership is that public safety at last will enjoy the ongoing technical developments that now are taken for granted by subscribers on commercial networks. Competition in a fully competitive marketplace is a powerful engine for driving technological advances.Technical improvements on this order require an appropriate spectrum platform. Yet critics of this governmental/commercial shared network claim that public safety does not need additional spectrum on which to deploy a broadband network. They argue that public safety could meet its needs by using its existing spectrum more effectively.The proponents of such criticism either are woefully misinformed or are willfully disingenuous about the reality of public safety spectrum allocations. Most public safety spectrum is allocated in individual 25 kHz or 12.5 kHz channels. These channels are but a fraction of the spectrum awarded to each cellular and PCS licensee and, even then, are not contiguous to one another. Under rules and procedures established by the FCC, they are interleaved with channels used by a variety of non-public safety entities and must coexist with them. Even if the FCC were inclined to displace all existing public safety operations on this shared spectrum, those individual channels could not be cobbled together to create a block of contiguous spectrum adequate to support a broadband network. Suggesting otherwise is a deliberate attempt to mislead Congress and this Committee. The fact that this fiction originated from CTIA, the organization representing the wireless carriers who have made no secret of their appetite for the spectrum in question, speaks volumes.The public safety community also has stated already that even the 12 MHz of contiguous public safety spectrum at 700 MHz proposed by the FCC for a nationwide broadband network is entirely inadequate for that purpose. They have determined that it would not provide enough capacity to accommodate all governmental broadband usage, much less provide excess capacity that would attract commercial partners.It is for precisely this reason that the public safety community has embraced the fundamental premise of the PSBT legislation – a shared governmental/commercial 30 MHz broadband network is the only economically realistic vehicle for delivering broadband capabilities to local, state and federal public safety users as well as to the American people that live beyond the outposts of commercial wireless deployment. If there is a better answer, one that addresses all of the technical and economic factors that must be integrated to produce a workable solution, its proponents should be here, before this Committee, so that their proposal could be tested for cohesiveness and validity. The needs of public safety are urgent and immediate. They should not be deferred in the hope that this problem will resolve itself or that an easier solution will emerge. They most certainly should not be denied because of a previously enacted Congressional auction schedule.Last week’s oversight hearings also reaffirmed that this Committee and the FCC consider ubiquitous broadband deployment one of the fundamental challenges for our nation’s telecommunications policies. There is no question that state-of-the-art broadband technology should be delivered to all of our citizens, not just those in the more densely populated communities that support purely commercial deployment. Indeed, several Senators questioned whether there should be incentives for more expansive broadband deployment and how addressing this issue might impact the Universal Service Fund.The shared governmental/commercial network proposed in the PSBT legislation represents a solution that requires neither governmental incentives nor USF monies. Chief McEwen has explained the financial structure of the PSBT legislation. He has described how the Federal Treasury will be compensated for the 30 MHz of spectrum that would be allocated to the PSBT rather than auctioned.The success of this approach is dependent upon two factors. First, the network must be conceived, organized and operated as a nationwide system with operations in more commercially attractive markets such as Los Angeles and New York defraying the cost of providing service in areas such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia. The network must operate on the principle of coupling access to prime spectrum usage rights in commercially desirable markets with the obligation to build and operate, or contribute to the construction and operation of, the network in more sparsely populated and underserved markets. If not, it will be bound by the same economic barriers that, to date, have defined the geographic coverage of commercial wireless systems. Indeed, one of the PSBT’s greatest challenges will be balancing public safety coverage requirements with the implacable economic realities of network costs.Second, there must be sufficient capacity to support governmental usage while still attracting commercial interest. The former dictates that the network be built to hardened public safety specifications, substantially beyond the requirements of a typical commercial system, and that it have truly nationwide coverage through a combination of terrestrial and satellite service. The cost of deploying such a network is substantial. The commercial operators who will be building, maintaining, operating and improving it pursuant to their lease arrangements with the PSBT must be confident that there will be sufficient commercial capacity to support significant usage by a commercial customer base large enough to justify their investments.Let me share with you a summary of the analysis that suggests 30 MHz is the minimum needed to support a viable network of this scope.· Terrestrial Coverage Cost: Public safety must provide services wherever there is public to serve. A nationwide public safety broadband network is assumed to require a terrestrial build to 99.3% population coverage. The favorable propagation characteristics at 700 MHz help reduce costs of network construction, operation and maintenance vis-à-vis building out in a higher band, but even with the 700 MHz coverage advantages, it still is estimated that approximately 37,000 cell sites will be needed.· Satellite Coverage Cost: Although the terrestrial build-out would cover 99.3% of the population, 35% of the nation’s land mass would not receive service from terrestrial sites. To ensure that public safety providers and the general public scattered throughout these sparsely populated areas nonetheless would have coverage, coverage that is not always available even today, and to guarantee a level of nationwide redundancy in the event of a catastrophe along the lines of Hurricane Katrina, satellite coverage will be an essential part of the network. Both terrestrial and satellite capabilities would be built into handsets so that emergency response providers will develop a full familiarity with both as part of their day-to-day radio operations.· Hardened Network Cost: The occasional dropped call or network outage is an inconvenience, not a catastrophe, for a commercial subscriber. When a police or fire officer or an EMT loses communications, a life may be lost. Because of the responsibilities their personnel shoulder, public safety agencies require their communications systems to be built to significantly higher standards of reliability and redundancy than are the norm in commercial networks. Each of these elements adds cost to the network.· Operational/Maintenance/Upgrade Cost: Economic analyses often focus on the cost of initial network deployment and fail to calculate the very substantial ongoing expenses associated with operating, maintaining and upgrading wireless systems. In fact, those costs can dwarf build-out expenses even when the up-front investment is significant. A 37,000 plus site network providing advanced capabilities to millions of public safety and commercial subscribers will have very significant operational and maintenance costs. Refreshing the network with technology upgrades as dictated by the marketplace and consistent with PSBT specifications will require additional financial commitments on the part of the commercial operators.· Estimated Usage: The history of wireless communications is that subscriber usage invariably exceeds estimates. The spectrum efficiencies gained when improved technologies are introduced permit new applications that themselves prompt additional system utilization. The impact on network usage when public safety leapfrogs from voice-centric communications to streaming video and other spectrum-consuming applications will be extraordinary. And the data applications that drive broadband usage will only expand once this next generation network is deployed. The viability of the network will depend, among other factors, on ensuring that it has sufficient capacity to support these more capacity-consuming applications while maintaining a public safety grade blocking rate.· Required Rate of Return: Commercial operators have a financial obligation to their investors and/or shareholders. The potential rate of return associated with the shared governmental/commercial network described herein must justify the investment required to fund the elements identified above. This requires capacity that is adequate to accommodate local, state and federal government usage with enough excess capacity to support an economically remunerative commercial subscriber base as well. There is no viable business case for a shared 12 MHz nationwide broadband network. 30 MHz is the minimum allocation that will satisfy this purpose.By scheduling this hearing, this Committee already has demonstrated its seriousness of purpose with respect to public safety communications requirements. It has been apparent for some time that the traditional response to a worsening situation, piecemeal financing of individual, incompatible systems serving individual needs, is prohibitively costly to taxpayers and does not address what clearly is a systemic problem.The solution endorsed by the public safety community, creation of the PSBT and the assignment to it of a 30 MHz authorization designated specifically for deployment of a nationwide, advanced technology, interoperable, and secure wireless broadband network shared by governmental and commercial users, represents a unique opportunity to address both public safety and rural broadband needs. But time is not on the side of those who support this initiative. Its opponents recognize that actions taken by prior Congresses mean that the clock continues to tick down toward the auction deadline for this 700 MHz spectrum. A failure to act promptly will eliminate this solution by default and stalemate, and rob Congress of the opportunity to engage in reasoned decision making on this vital national issue.I urge Congress to embrace the comprehensive approach set out in the PSBT legislation and endorse a public/private partnership that will deliver wireless broadband service to all of the American public and provide public safety with the telecommunications capabilities needed to protect the safety of our citizenry.
Mr. Steve LargentPresident and Chief Executive OfficerCTIA - The Wireless Association
Mr. David BillstromChairman and Chief Executive OfficerNational Interop
Mr. Matt DeschChairman and Chief Executive OfficerIridium Satellite LLCTestimony of Matthew J. DeschChairman and Chief Executive Officer, Iridium Satellite LLCSenate Committee on Commerce, Science, and TransportationHearing on The Present and Future of Public Safety CommunicationsFebruary 8, 2007Good morning Chairman Inouye, Co-Chairman Stevens, and Members of the Committee. My name is Matt Desch, and I am the Chairman and CEO of Iridium Satellite LLC. Iridium played a vital role in providing emergency communications after Hurricane Katrina, and I am very grateful to be here today to talk to you about the state of the nation’s emergency communications network. Nearly a year and a half has passed since the disaster wrought by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but the images of those days in August and September of 2005 are not easily forgotten. I want to applaud the Committee for its continuing efforts to ensure that the nation’s communications infrastructure is prepared before, during, and after disasters.During Katrina, the effect of satellite communications was greatly enhanced by the swift actions of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC worked around-the-clock to ensure that providers had the resources available to assist in the recovery effort. From assisting us in obtaining additional spectrum to facilitating customs entry of additional handsets, they worked in an efficient, cooperative, and professional manner. I want to thank the Commission for these actions, and I believe that the development of the Homeland Security Bureau within the Commission is an important step toward ensuring more effective emergency communications in the future.Iridium’s network is uniquely suited to the communications needs of first responders and the military. In fact, the Iridium’s system configuration is particularly effective in an emergency. Our network includes more than 66 orbiting satellites, ensuring that every location in the U.S. and world, including both Hawaii and all of Alaska, is served by an Iridium satellite every minute of every day. Iridium is the only communications system that has this universal coverage. We also have significant ground facilities in both Hawaii and Alaska.We are the primary mobile satellite telephone provider to the U.S. military and thousands of Iridium handsets are in use everyday by our soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen in Iraq and around the globe. We also serve as the communications backbone for the nation’s tsunami warning system in the Pacific Ocean. Iridium delivers essential services to users who need communications access to and from remote areas where no other form of communication is available, including in the air and at sea far from shore.Through a satellite phone handset or small data device, a first responder is able to access our communications network that is positioned hundreds of miles above the planet, where it is always on and always ready. Unlike any other network, Iridium’s system does not have to rely on vulnerable ground infrastructure to connect calls, which means that destruction of the terrestrial communications infrastructure will not render our system inoperable. Iridium’s satellite phones require two things to complete a call: (1) a charged battery; and (2) instruction similar to the instruction needed when you purchase a new phone or PDA. Iridium is also interoperable with other communications devices such as land mobile radio through off-the-shelf technology. And it is Iridium’s experiences with disaster communications that leads us to offer our wholehearted support of S. 385.Communications are the essential backbone of any disaster response system. If our first responders, public safety personnel, and medical professionals cannot talk to one another over a functional, effective, and secure network when a disaster strikes, needless lives will be lost and needless destruction of property may occur. Unfortunately, the very events that can so adversely affect our communities—whether they be natural or man-made, hurricanes or floods, or bombs or bullets—also often disrupt the basic infrastructure with which we communicate. The present emergency communications system for the nation is remains vulnerable, even as its limitations were revealed both by the September 11th attacks and by the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes. Major strides have been made in the last year and a half, but the challenge for the future is to provide our first responders with both a redundant and an interoperable emergency communications network that is available when they need it, where they need it. By taking steps to ensure that first responders have the proper communications equipment ready for a disaster, this Committee can also spur business adoption of appropriate backup emergency communications equipment.S. 385, the Interoperable Emergency Communications Act introduced by you Mr. Chairman with the support of the Co-Chairman and Senators Kerry, Smith, and Snowe, is a needed and necessary step toward this goal. Iridium is proud to give this bill its support. This bill embraces two lessons learned from our nation’s recent disasters that will dramatically strengthen the national emergency communications system: (1) the need to create strategic communications reserves in various locations around the nation so that communications equipment is pre-positioned and ready for use when a disaster strikes; and (2) the need to explore the creation of a national emergency communications backup system for the nation, including an evaluation of the use of a non-terrestrial, satellite-based communications component for that backup system (which Iridium believes should be a significant component of such backup system). This Committee should act quickly to report S. 385. Doing so will address two of the most obvious problems with the country’s emergency communications capabilities.Satellite’s Role in Emergency CommunicationsSatellite communications networks were often the only communications network available to first responders in the Gulf Coast region in the days immediately following the destructive hurricanes of 2005. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed most of the terrestrial communications systems used throughout the Gulf Coast. Telephone wires simply vanished, and wireless towers had to have extensive repairs when the storms had passed before they were fully-functional. Even temporary communications solutions such as fixed-line phones on vehicular platforms, trucked-in cell towers, and hastily-wired emergency shelters took days and sometimes weeks to deploy. But there was never enough equipment for all effected communities, even when these stop-gap measures became available. Iridium and other providers stripped their stocks bare to send equipment to the Gulf Coast, bringing it in from around the globe. Even so, mobile satellite providers had to turn down requests for equipment from public safety organizations, and give other public safety organizations, including the House Sergeant-at-Arms office, less equipment than they requested. The lack of available communications equipment pre-positioned in the Gulf Coast region hampered relief efforts and made the communications problems in the region worse than they should have been.Beyond that, a core problem in the emergency communications in the Gulf Coast was the lack of an integrated emergency communications plan that embraced satellite communications. As the Chairman of the FCC informed this Committee less than a month after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, “[i]f we learned anything from Hurricane Katrina, it is that we cannot rely solely on terrestrial communications. When radio towers are knocked down, satellite communications are, in some instances, the most effective means of communicating.” In the midst of this catastrophe, emergency personnel came to rely on satellite phones and other non-terrestrial services for their vital communications needs. The reason for that reliance was clear—more and more first responders found that satellite provided voice and data access when other networks simply could not. In fact Sulfur, Louisiana’s firefighters had constant contact with their headquarters through their Iridium handsets, even while standing in the knee-deep waters of New Orleans.What worked in the Gulf Coast immediately after the hurricanes was satellite, which became a vital communications link that first responders found necessary as they went about saving lives. Satellites provided the redundancy, ubiquity, and resiliency that were unavailable from land-based networks. The National Guard, the Red Cross, utility workers, search and rescue officials, and even local phone companies turned to mobile satellite phones and terminals in the minutes, hours, and days after the Hurricane struck. For example:
Today, the private sector is working with Iridium to provide a more permanent emergency communications capability for their operations. And that capability is reliant upon the redundancy and effectiveness of satellite communications. Two current Iridium projects illustrate this fact:
- The Red Cross deployed 9 specially-designed Emergency Response Vehicles to the Gulf Coast, each equipped with10 satellite phones and portable, tripod mounted VSAT satellite dishes.
- The First U.S. Army Division, based on its disaster recovery experience in Florida and other locations in the United States, relied on Iridium satellite phones while deployed to the Gulf Coast for their basic voice and data communications needs, knowing that other terrestrial options would be inoperable.
- Air evacuation teams used the Iridium communications system to track helicopters when they were in the air and to transmit data on incoming patients. According to the President and CEO of Air Evac Lifeteam, which deployed to the Gulf Coast in the hours after Katrina hit: “We knew where our ships were at all times. We were able to send and receive text messages in real time when other modes of communication failed—our crews and our communicators were able to exchange timely information, which enhanced both the safety and the effectiveness of our mission.”
The move to satellite communications equipment for emergency situations makes perfect sense—widespread and catastrophic damage on the ground, or the remoteness of a particular location, simply does not impact a satellite communications network located in space. No matter where disaster occurs, mobile satellite communications equipment can be immediately available for critical communications needs. Satellite communications systems also offer first responders and public safety personnel the interoperability they so desperately need. The satellite industry is already offering interoperable communications options to first responders.Satellite communications, and in particular satellite phones, have proven their value in an emergency. Where they are available and used as part of an integrated emergency communications plan, they provide first responders with an effective and redundant communications capability from the moment a disaster strikes. No matter the damage on the ground from a disaster, including flooding, earthquakes, tornados, and man-made catastrophes, first responders can go about their duties with the knowledge that they will have all the information they need provided through a satellite communications system. Unfortunately, the current lack of readily-available satellite communications equipment and the lack of an integrated plan for their deployment and use continue to hamper the nation’s emergency communications system.The Future of Emergency Communications for the NationThe realization that the American communications system was not ready for a disaster was never more evident than on September 11th, when stories surfaced about the lack of interoperable equipment available to the heroes who responded to the catastrophe at the World Trade Center. Hurricane Katrina reinforced that realization 4 years later, revealing not only that the American emergency communications system lacked interoperability but that it also lacked redundancy. Now, over a year after the Gulf Coast disaster, the challenge of establishing a truly effective national emergency communications system still confronts us. S. 385 embraces that challenge.No matter how successful any particular emergency communications system is, if it is not in the hands of first responders or ready in times of need, it will never be as effective as it could be. The key for the nation is to, in the immortal words of the Boy Scouts, “Be Prepared.” Iridium, like other communications companies, stands ready to answer the call in an emergency. When Hurricane Katrina struck, Iridium personnel worked overtime to get Iridium phones into the hands of those first responders who lacked operable communications equipment. But these efforts were hampered by the same infrastructure destruction that made other communications systems inoperable and the need to transport equipment across the nation to the disaster area.The efforts were also hampered by the economic reality that in times of emergency, there is never a large enough stock of equipment to get it in the hands of everyone that needs it. A strategic communications reserve that provides for advanced placement of communications equipment is a necessary step in the development of a national emergency communications plan. The grants established in S. 385, which provide for up to $100 million total for strategic placement of communications equipment across the nation, will make available the funds necessary to make sure that communications equipment is ready and available when needed where needed.The basic reality of the present national emergency communications system, however, is that it is over-reliant on terrestrial systems, the same systems that were proven fallible along the Gulf Coast. This is not an issue of equipment availability or even interoperability; it is an issue of redundancy and effectiveness. That is why Iridium supports the measures outlined in S. 385 to study the development of a national emergency communications backup system. We also thank the Chairman and the Co-Chairman, and the other co-sponsors of the bill, for including satellite communications systems in the study of that backup system. For it is satellite communications that offers the best chance of creating a “resilient interoperable communications system for first responders.” It is beyond time for the nation to consider creating a national emergency communications backup system. And Iridium is committed to assisting that study in any way possible.The federal government can also implement additional steps to strengthen the state of the nation’s emergency communications system. Iridium would like to see the federal government expand the grant program created last year which gave money to hospitals in the Gulf Coast states to purchase satellite communications equipment for use during emergencies. This program will bring vitally-needed communications equipment to these hospitals, but there is no reason to limit the program to the Gulf Coast. Other hospitals need these communications links for the times when other communications alternatives may not be available. Having this equipment could literally be the difference between life and death.The federal government’s own communications networks are also in dire need of a backup system. The communications network for Capitol Hill and in federal government buildings around the nation is almost exclusively reliant on terrestrial communications systems. If a disaster on the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina every struck Washington, D.C., the federal government could very well be without basic voice and data communications in the minutes, hours, and days immediately following the disaster because the local terrestrial communications infrastructure has been destroyed. Iridium believes that the Committee should consider the development of a non-terrestrial emergency communications backup system for federal buildings. Much like the MedStar system, an emergency backup based on satellite communications would provide the federal government with the safety and security of knowing that communications would be available in a time of need.Finally, training is a vital component of any emergency communications system. It is not enough to simply give a first responder a satellite phone, or any other communications device, and tell them to “go to your job.” Modern emergency communications systems are so much more than a means of voice communication. For instance, the real-time data transmission available over the Iridium system can put a host of information at the hands of a first responder, particularly if they are deployed to areas they are not already familiar with or into situations that are continually in flux. We need to make sure that first responders understand the immense capabilities of the equipment that they are given and can incorporate and use those capabilities when they are in emergency situations. The federal government should make money available to public safety agencies to ensure that they are adequately trained to use their emergency communications equipment as an integrated part of their response protocol.ConclusionI would like to thank this Committee for its efforts toward creating a more robust emergency communications network for the nation. As we have seen time and time again, effective emergency communications is essential during a disaster. This Committee has made emergency communications a priority, and bills like S. 385 will begin to shape the type of emergency communications system that will be available to our first responders when even the most devastating natural or man-made disaster confronts us. Strategic deployment of communications equipment will ensure that equipment is ready the minute disaster strikes. And a national emergency communications backup system, particularly one that contains a non-terrestrial component, will provide first responders with the redundant communications systems they need to do their job efficiently and effectively.I can assure the Committee that each Iridium employee takes seriously the vital role that we play as the piece of the nation’s communications infrastructure that never goes down. To that end, we continue to add functionality based on the lessons learned from each disaster recovery operation and on the recommendations of public safety personnel. We also continue to work with the FCC to ensure that we have the necessary spectrum to expand and improve our system. Our nation’s emergency communications system is getting better, but we have not yet embraced all of the lessons learned from America’s recent disasters. We can all do more to assist our first responders, and Iridium, with its satellite phones and communications network, stands poised to aid in any way necessary. Thank you again for letting me testify before you today, and I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.
- Iridium’s communications network is being used as the backbone for a new system that provides in-flight, on-demand medical assistance during airborne emergencies. The network provides flight crew with a direct link to physicians who have been specially-trained in remote airborne diagnosis and treatment.
- MedStar Health, the primary Washington, D.C. hospital operator, has chosen the Iridium system to serve as its corporate backup emergency communications provider. Iridium phones will be deployed throughout MedStar’s medical network to ensure that communications services will be available at all times. According to Dr. Christopher Wuerker of MedStar, “As a vital community medical services provider, it is critically important that we have redundant layers of backup communications.” Iridium equipment is also used in MedStar’s medical transport helicopters to provide tracking and voice communications systems.