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MANHASSET, N.Y. Gary Grube, Motorola Inc.'s corporate vice president of technology, called on Congress to immediately improve the nation's emergency communications infrastructure in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Appearing at a congressional hearing of public safety officials and communications providers, Grube told the the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee U.S. public safety communications networks must be fixed before the next disaster strikes.
"There are two undisputed solutions for this challenge," Grube stated. "First, end the [digital TV] transition now with an early date certain so that 700 MHz of desperately needed spectrum for interoperable communications among first responders is available all across the nation. Every year we wait is a year too late. Second, appropriate the money equal to the need so that the goal can be accomplished in five years rather than twenty years."
Motorola is considered a leading provider of mission critical wireless communications for public safety officials.Grube backed the call for true interoperability between first responders using a standards-based network built around the user-developed Project 25 (P25) radio standard. "A key requirement is interoperability. It was too often the case that the responding agencies could not talk to one another. This interoperability challenge is not new and was not caused by Katrina or Rita. These hurricanes simply again exposed the real world problems and inadequacies. Spectrum, money, and planning are the solutions," Grube testified.
Grube told the Senate panel that while most of Motorola's public safety customers were up and running in some form within 48 hours of Katrina, many law enforcement and relief agencies could not communicate with one another because their networks were not interoperable.
To help achieve the interoperability, Motorola called on Congress to clear the 700-MHz spectrum on which interoperable networks can operate privately and securely. Presently, a small number of television stations currently occupy the 700-MHz spectrum to operate channels 60 to 69.
"We should establish standards for response that assure minimal communications shall be restored in any area of the country within 12 hours," Grube said. "This can be accomplished by prepositioning trucks that are self-contained and come equipped with hundreds of portable radios for immediate deployment."
The House Energy and Commerce telecommunications subcommittee. also met Thursday to examine the failure of communication networks after Hurricane Katrina.