Sen. Hutchison Questions FCC Chairman on Timetable for Texas Emergency Responder Network

May 16, 2012

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, today pressed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman on allowing the planned Texas emergency responder network to go forward so that it can be ready in time for the start of hurricane season. Last year, the Texas Department of Public Safety received a waiver from the FCC to begin deploying a 4G mobile broadband data network for emergency personnel.  Several sites in the state are prepared to move forward with their projects, and Harris County, in particular, can turn on its network within weeks.  The State of Texas is now just waiting on the FCC to approve the technical aspects of its plan. Video footage and the transcript of the questioning follow:

Sen. Hutchison: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First, I want to ask a question and it’s about the State of Texas wireless broadband network for emergency responders. As you know, you granted the State of Texas a waiver to employ the emergency responder network in the 700 megahertz wireless band. It is further along in its efforts to comply with the parameters of the grant than any other jurisdictions in the country, I’m told, and they are prepared to start using the network as early as this month,
just in time for the start of hurricane season.  My question is: Because Texas has moved to try to meet this very important season that afflicts us regularly, is it possible that the timetable can be achieved, that they will get that waiver to be able to go forward so that they can actually use it this year?

Mr. Genachowski: I hope so. As you know, prior to Congress’s enactment of First Net and the Public Safety proceedings, there were a small number of waivers granted. We understand that the NTIA, which has lead responsibility for First Net, is preparing comments to us on it. We look forward to getting input on the NTIA. From the Committee, we want to achieve the goal of the statute of having one interoperable public safety network for first responders. We also have to take into account the type of issues that you mentioned.

Sen. Hutchison: And could I just ask if it would be a priority, in your opinion, to try to work with all of those issues, and assuming they have met all of the requirements that you would be able to move expeditiously?

Mr. Genachowski: Yes, and fortunately there’s a small number and a very small number at the stage you described for Texas.

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