Utilties Feeling Left Out of the Emergency Communications Network Loop

The Utilities Telecom
Council (UTC) said Monday it was unhappy with the FCC for not naming a single
representative of electricity, gas and water utilities to its Emergency Response
Interoperability Center's Public Safety Advisory Council (ERIC PSAC)
which is coming up with design and build-out plan for a public safety emergency
response network.

The first meeting of the
60-member council, which includes commercial broadband and equipment providers,
will be March 15.

"When the FCC
issued its National Broadband Plan almost a year ago, it recommended that
utilities and public safety should jointly build, operate and maintain 700 MHz
broadband networks," the council pointed out, and UTC nominated a
reserve police lieutenant from New Jersey.

"We recognize the
important role that public utilities serve during emergency response efforts
and their commitment to serving their communities," said an FCC spokesman.
"However, under the current law, these commercial companies are not
clearly defined as public safety entities that would be permitted to use the
700 MHz public safety interoperable broadband network once constructed. We
currently have an open proceeding that asks about this very issue to determine
how best to address their concerns. We look forward to working with public
utilities on this issue going forward."

Congress is currently
deciding how to finally get an interoperable emergency communications network
almost 10 years after 9/11. Legislation has been introduced that would hand
over the D block of spectrum to first responders for the network, with the
guild-out and operation funded by spectrum auctions, including of reclaimed
broadcast spectrum. The FCC would prefer to auction the D block to a commercial
user in a public private partnership, but FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
has said he will support whatever process gets the network built-out and funded

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.