In Case You Missed It - NYPD: Osama Bin Laden Death Shows Need for Better Network

May 2, 2011

NYPD Deputy Chief Charles Dowd on Monday welcomed news that Osama Bin Laden “has received justice”—but stressed it only underscores the need for a new, nationwide data network for police officers and firefighters.

It was the 9/11 Commission’s report that called for an interoperable communications network for public safety agencies across the country. Yet Congress and top federal agencies have been stymied since then over the complex questions of how to build and fund the system.

Dowd, who heads up the NYPD’s Communications Division, said Monday that the stalemate had to be resolved as soon as possible.

“The need to remain vigilant and coordinate information sharing in the wake of this great news underscores the urgency facing Congress to act and pass legislation to assign the 'D-block' radio spectrum to public safety and send it to the president for his signature, fulfilling the last major recommendation of the 9/11 Commission,” Dowd said in a statement to POLITICO.

“We applaud our country's intel and military for their perseverance in bringing this terrorist to justice,” he added. 

The D-block is a valuable chunk of spectrum—a set of airwaves that enables speedy applications and other uses for smartphones, and can easily penetrate building walls. Top stakeholders—from telecom companies to members of Congress—agree first responders should be able to utilize that network, but political fissures still exist over how best to do it.

Even supporters remain torn on whether to auction the D-block to a private company, or turn the airwaves directly over to public safety.

Auctioning the airwaves to the private sector could allow a new carrier to gain access to speedy airwaves and compete with industry titans like AT&T and Verizon. And if done according to the FCC's recommendations, auctioning the airwaves could grant public safety a larger pool of networks it could utilize in emergencies. However, top carriers do not like the plan, while first responders want the spectrum to themselves.

On the opposing front is reallocation of the airwaves. It’s a plan the White House now backs and which would turn the airwaves over directly to those first responders. In addition, there’s legislative momentum in the Senate now for that plan and Dowd and others in the first-responder community support it—but House Republicans maintain concerns about its costs. 

This article was written by Tony Romm and was posted to on May 2, 2011.