Saturday, April 26, 2008

STLtoday - Questions remain about communications plan: "JEFFERSON CITY (MO) — The concept is simple: Highway Patrol officers, police, firefighters and others responding to an emergency need to be able to talk to one another. On that everyone agrees.

But the next step has sparked a bitter fight in the Capitol. The question: Is Gov. Matt Blunt's proposal to build a statewide wireless radio network vital to public safety or a blank check for high-tech vendors? After months of debate, the plan cleared a key hurdle Thursday. Legislative negotiators approved the first $9 million payment on the $175 million system. The deal, part of the state budget, still needs final approval from both the House and Senate.

The project has drawn criticism because the state plans to use a 'design-build approach,' which means that the winning bidder would figure out how to provide the radio coverage needed."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

YouTube - San Mateo County Sheriffs Digital Radio Problems: ABC News in the Bay Area reports on problems with the new shared radio system. The station reported further on Redwood City problems leading to their withdrawal from the system.
A $13M upgrade already? | Philadelphia Daily News: "JUST SIX YEARS after Philadelphia started using Motorola's expensive - and much-maligned - 800 megahertz digital radio system, city officials are considering a pricey upgrade. Frank Punzo, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Property, said recently that he's hoping to soon see a final proposal from Motorola on a newer system, which could come with a $13 million price tag. Punzo said that the maintenance agreement on the current system - which was hailed as being state-of-the-art just a few years ago - will expire in 2010."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Citywide Wireless IP Network Launched in New York - Government Technology: "Leave it to America's biggest city to launch an equally big high-speed data network.

The New York City Wireless Network (NYCWiN) was rolled out to 70 percent of the city's police precincts and firehouses on April 1, giving the city's first responders and employees a unique public safety and public service network."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Centre County (PA) emergency system upgrade may cost $28M: "Upgrading Centre County’s emergency communications system could cost upwards of $28 million. Those numbers provided by consultants from L. Robert Kimball and Associates, Ebensburg, left the county commissioners in “sticker shock” at their meeting Tuesday. The county’s current system nears the end of its operational life.

Commissioner Chairman Jon Eich noted the system upgrades will cost each county taxpayer between $40 and $50 a year for the next 10 years, which, he said, is a small price to pay to make sure emergency communications in the county remain strong for years to come. ... Eich noted the bond that paid for the current system will be paid off in 2011, the same year that a new bond may be taken out for a new system."
Lawmakers reconsider in wake of 700 MHz auction - RCR Wireless News: "Markey and other lawmakers — as well as FCC Chairman Kevin Martin — said the commission should not abandon the public-private partnership approach as federal regulators consider changes to D-Block guidelines. Suggestions include lowering the $1.3 billion reserve price for the license, modifying the penalty associated with network-sharing agreement negotiations between the D-Block winner and the public-safety broadband licensee, clarifying upfront the obligations and expectations of the private sector partner and perhaps licensing the D Block on a regional basis with an interoperability requirement."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Police radio system fails - years after it was supposed to be fixed: "The [Philadelphia] Daily News found that the radio problems in East Frankford that night were among more than a dozen other malfunctions, mix-ups and crashes that have occurred with the Motorola system since 2005 - the same year that city officials declared that they had fixed most problems with the $62 million radio system.

Critics say that the system is still more complicated than firefighters and cops need it to be, and remains a serious liability in times of crisis.

Two years ago, in one of the most serious malfunctions, the Police Department had to rely on a backup system for three days, and kept officers in two-car teams because of safety concerns.

Problems continued as recently as March 15, when screeching noises were heard on radios in North Philadelphia and cops in the Northeast couldn't communicate with police dispatchers, police officials said."

Monday, April 07, 2008

New York Wireless Network Ready for Operational Testing in April - Government Technology: "The New York State Office for Technology (OFT) announced Monday M/A-COM Inc., the prime contractor for the network, has certified the Statewide Wireless Network is ready for operational testing in Erie and Chautauqua Counties. This is a major project milestone in the State's effort to build an interoperable radio network for emergency communication among first responders as its primary purpose.

'The Statewide Wireless Network Project Office, based on M/A-COM's certification, is ready to begin testing the network,' said Dr. Michael R. Mittleman, Deputy CIO at the New York State Office for Technology and Interim Project Director. 'We will put the network through its paces in a rigorous test and will stretch the system to its limits to ensure the system can handle radio communications during any emergency our state's first responders may face.'"

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Public safety now part of most commercial wireless conversations: "A profound -- but predictably understandable -- policy shift has been evolving since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and horrific hurricanes four years later.

Public safety, organically ingrained in and the higher calling component of the Communications Act, already had sacred cow status before 9/11. Now, public safety is overlaid -- explicitly and otherwise -- on telecom policy across the board. Perhaps no other sector has felt it more than the wireless industry. The once bright line separating public safety and commercial wireless communications has become forever blurred. Indeed, it is getting increasingly difficult to tell where public safety policy begins and cellphone policy ends. Jurisdictions are overlapping. A fundamental morphing is underway."
Responders test coordination skills: "The Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies converged in southern Virginia last week to demonstrate and test the interoperability of the communications systems that will need to work together for the agency’s disaster response plans to succeed. FEMA has expanded its repertoire of scripted response plans, from 44 in 2006 to more than 240 now. It has also increased the number of agencies it coordinates with in creating scripted scenarios for such exercises, from four to 31, said Glenn Cannon, assistant administrator of FEMA's Disaster Operations Directorate.

The exercise, hosted by the Northern Command’s Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS) at Fort Monroe, Va., is an example of one of several ways that FEMA and its coordinating agencies have sought to improve their performance. Other measures include a national communications plan and the National Response Framework. “We don’t want to wait until we are in the middle of an event to call our friends at DOD and say, ‘You know, now we need some help,’ ” Cannon said."
Lockheed Martin Team Awarded $766M AMF JTRS Contract: "Lockheed Martin announced [March 28th] that it has been selected by the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Joint Program Executive Office to provide the tactical communications and networking solutions for the Air Force, Army, Navy and other users. The Lockheed Martin Airborne and Maritime/Fixed Stations (AMF) JTRS team will design, develop, integrate, test and deliver advanced, reliable, tactical networked communications solutions providing joint interoperability with secure information flow. AMF JTRS is an essential element in the Tactical Global Information Grid strategy to provide secure data, voice, and video to the right people, in the right place, at the right time. The initial System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract value is $766 million."
Canadian Voice Interoperability Workshop: "The more than 180 participants that attended The Canadian Voice Interoperability Workshop: A CITIG National Forum helped identify priorities and set the future direction of a collaborative effort to help improve public safety provider interoperability in Canada. The first workshop of its kind in Canada, the event was hosted by the Canadian Police Research Centre (CPRC) in cooperation with representatives from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) and the Emergency Medical Services Chiefs of Canada (EMSCC), and took place in Ottawa Ontario on March 27 and 28, 2008."
Exercise tests communication in event of domestic crisis: "March 17, 2008 --- This week at Fort Monroe [VA], 150 participants from 32 federal, state and local agencies are practicing for the next big domestic crisis. The DICE, short for Department of Defense Interoperability Communications Exercise, is designed to test new software and other communications systems in a realistic tactical setting. Basically, it will see if first responders and various layers of government can talk to each other in a time crunch."
Firefighters' distrust of digital radio system grows: "On April 16, 2007, firefighter Kyle Wilson was part of a crew dispatched to fight a residential fire in Woodbridge, Va. He died in the line of duty.

A detailed report on the incident recently released by Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue concluded that problems associated with the use of the county’s Motorola digital trunked radio system contributed to the tragedy. Issues reported by other firefighters during that incident, which was further complicated by strong winds, ranged from signal distortion and transmission failure to radios displaying “out of range” signals.

Fire safety advocates now are encouraging fire departments across the country to study the incident in hopes that future tragedies could be avoided. Prince William County’s fire department, through further tests, concluded that digital portable radios are “extremely vulnerable to poor environmental conditions and interference of digital noise from ambient sources, which negatively impact the ability of emergency personnel to effectively communicate.”"
Public safety needs a plan B - RCR Wireless News: "The government — not just the Federal Communications Commission — failed in its plan to deploy a mixed-use network that could be used by regular Joes and the public-safety community (in times of emergency, or whenever else they need it). The D-Block plan did not work. That much we know.

Among members of Congress, self-proclaimed public-interest groups and public-safety agencies themselves, there are a lot of words flying around mixed in with a little finger-pointing. Depending on what you read, and what you believe, either FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, public safety itself or Cyren Call founder Morgan O’Brien caused the downfall of the D Block.

It makes me nervous that people are going to spend too much time and effort looking back when their collective energy should be spent trying to find a solution. I understand that we as a nation have an obligation to make sure nothing illegal was done by any party involved in the D-Block debacle, but that work should not overshadow the government’s first mission: fixing public-safety communications."
House: Why No Serious Public Safety Spectrum Bids?: "A top House Democrat [on March 18th] promised a full review of the recently concluded 700 MHz spectrum auction, and called on the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to review its policies regarding the public safety d-block. The FCC's spectrum auction, which sold off valuable spectrum in the 700-MHz band, concluded Tuesday after nearly eight weeks with $19.6 billion in bids.

Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the House subcommittee on telecom and the Internet, said in a statement Tuesday that he is 'eager to ascertain the extent to which new entrants have succeeded in obtaining licenses through this auction.'"
Fresh strategy needed for public safety network: "March 19, 2008 --- The Federal Communications Commission is weighing its options to improve public safety communications after it failed to attract an appropriate bid for creation of a nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders. A spectrum auction that began in January was closed March 18 after receiving $19.6 billion worth of bids. The 700 MHz D Block, which was to be dedicated to a public safety partnership, did not receive a bid that met the $1.3 billion reserve price, said Kevin Martin, chairman of the commission, in a press release.

“I believe the commission remains committed to ensuring that we work to solve public safety’s interoperability challenges,” he said. “Because the reserve price for the D Block was not met in the 700 MHz auction, the FCC is now evaluating its options for this spectrum.”"
Interoperability Developments in Newark: "The City of Newark will start deploying the Mutualink system in March 2008. While Mutualink will continue to add additional locations throughout the year, the initial phase of the system is scheduled to complete in Q2 2008. Several city agencies and private corporations will also participate in the upcoming deployment."
FCC chief Martin asked to produce extensive documents in probe - RCR Wireless News: "March 13, 2008 -- The House Commerce Committee’s probe of the Federal Communications Commission moved to a new level, with key lawmakers asking FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to produce extensive documentation on a wide array of agency activities that appear to impact some wireless policy-making. The document request was made in a bipartisan letter signed by House Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), ranking member Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), oversight and investigations subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and ranking subcommittee member Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). The letter was a follow-up to one sent Jan. 28 to Martin in connection with allegations made by former and present FCC employees and others regarding the operation of the telecom regulatory agency."
When Disaster Strikes, Wi-Fi Responds: "Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005, a group of Burning Man participants calling themselves Burners Without Borders headed to Pearlington, Mississippi and began helping out in any way they could.

And a simple Wi-Fi router was key to their efforts.

Participant Tom Price says the group used a Kyocera KR1 Mobile Router and an EVDO card to get online in Mississippi.

“We’re sitting in a swamp running gas generators perched in the debris of what used to be the post office, with this router inside a plastic bin nail-gunned to a pole we’d stuck in the ground—and that was our lifeline to the world,” he recalls.

Burners Without Borders continues to operate aid projects in remote areas—they’re currently helping Pisco, Peru recover from last fall’s 8.0 earthquake—and Price says Internet connectivity is always key, for both communications and fundraising.

“We’re a diverse community of people located internationally, and so whenever we work on a project, being able to connect wirelessly puts us in touch with that entire global network of money, resources, and expertise,” he says."
State to fund more effective police communications - News: "Gov. Bobby Jindal is prompting legislators to fund communication updates for local, state and federal emergency first responders. Failed government reactions to emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks triggered the focus on interoperable communication. The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, state police and the Statewide Interoperable Communication System Executive Committee met [in early March] to issue a communications status report and funding plan for the next year."