Hutchison Says First Responders Must Have Access to 21st Century Communications

February 16, 2011

Hutchison PortraitWASHINGTON, D.C. – During a Committee hearing today on building a nationwide public safety network, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said America’s first responders must have access to 21st century wireless communications.

“It is vital for America’s first responders to have the best equipment available in order to protect the public in times of crisis, and robust and interoperable communications are essential,” said Senator Hutchison.  “Today, children are walking to school with cutting-edge smartphones capable of video conferencing and high-speed Internet connections, while our first responders often rely on voice-only walkie-talkies that use decades-old technology.  Often times those radios are not even able to communicate with other departments in nearby towns and counties.  Our emergency personnel must have access to 21st century wireless communications.”

Senator Hutchison noted that she has drafted a comprehensive spectrum bill called the Wireless Innovation and Spectrum Enhancement Act, (the WISE Act) which would allocate a block of spectrum, known as the D block, for America’s first responders.  The measure would provide a stable funding stream through a combination of grants financed by auctions revenue and zero-interest loans to build a dedicated wireless public safety network.  Senator Hutchison said funds would also be specifically targeted to rural and high-cost areas so that many of the smaller communities in states like Texas and West Virginia will also see the timely deployment of a public safety broadband network.  The bill would also generate billions in new revenue to help pay down the federal deficit.

“We have an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation to help spur wireless innovation, create jobs, reduce the deficit, and most importantly build a much-needed national public safety broadband communications network,” Senator Hutchison said.  “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass legislation this year that ensures the public safety community gets the resources they need for their critical mission to help keep Americans safe and secure.”

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You can watch Senator Hutchison’s statement here.