Santa Barbara resident Andrew Seybold, the nation’s leading wireless communication consultant, collaborated with the Public Safety Alliance to include the public safety broadband provision in the Middle Class Tax Relief Act.
The bill, signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 22, extends current payroll tax reliefs and several key job initiatives and grants a portion of the national airwaves exclusively to public safety organizations. The legislation also sets aside $7 billion for the construction of a nationwide public safety broadband network for fire, law-enforcement and EMS departments around the country.
According to Seybold, people using cell phones’ voice, text, picture and video capabilities at higher rates during a crisis often overwhelm their servers’ capacities.
“Public safety can not use the commercial networks — AT&T’s, Verizon’s, Sprint’s or T-Mobile’s — because when there is a major emergency, those networks get overloaded and overcrowded,” Seybold said. “There’s no way that they have priority on the network.”
Seybold spoke with members of congress while campaigning with the PSA for a new approach to emergency communication.
Although the initial federal funding is insufficient to create a full-scale nationwide network, Seybold said the project is progressing forward.
“The bill grants the creation of ‘nationwide piece of spectrum,’ which is dedicated to public safety,” Seybold said. “It is going to build a nationwide network and it is going to accomplish many things. It is going to give sight to first responders who are essentially blind today because all they have is voice.”
Seybold said recent national crises prompted the establishment of a new broadcast system for first responders.
“A couple months ago there was an earthquake in the Washington D.C. area all up and down the East coast. On the commercial networks nobody could make a phone call or send data for multiple hours,” Seybold said. “If public safety had been using that radio spectrum to do their broadband communications, it would have not been available to them. Therefore, we needed our own spectrum.”
Firefighters will have access to a building’s structural information and its contents under the new system, according to Seybold.
“They don’t know what is there, they don’t know if it is a laboratory, if there are dangerous chemical or poisonous gases,” Seybold said. “With broadband — as they are going to the scene they will get transmitted to them the blueprints of the building and any locations with hazardous material, or anything like that, so that they can be prepared when they get there.”