A space to share ideas and engage in dialog around how mobility can help maximize productivity for government agencies and the citizens they serve.
Is it time for a Broadband Emergency Network?
August 29, 2011 at 1:04 pm #139904
Just after last week’s earthquake (and now in light of Hurricane Irene), GovLoop Summer Fellow Stephanie Slade found a GovTech article which suggests that it might be worth considering the creation of an Broadband Emergency Network. She writes:
For many of us along the east coast, the jitters of experiencing an earthquake were followed by the inconvenience of being unable to use our cell phones. In the wake of the quake, cell providers were overwhelmed with people calling 911 and one another to see if loved ones were okay. Service was down for some for hours, and even text messaging was sporadic.
One result of the congestion has been renewed calls for a broadband emergency network that would allow calls among first responders and emergency personnel to take precedence in times of crises. Beyond natural disasters, terrorist attacks that could lead to widespread panic and/or bring down usual modes of communication, like cell lines, are another concern — particularly in the D.C. area.
Given that this group is dedicated to talking about and enabling a mobile workforce, I think it’s worth have the conversation here:
What do you think? How important is a broadband emergency network?
August 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm #139906
So there are a lot of things to be considered here:
1.) Historically emergency first responders have been advocating for the identification of bandwidth for emergency comms for years now. And recently the current administration has decided to kill the program in favor of selling the bandwidth for income due to the current economic condition of the country. Failure #1…
2.) In light of #1 above, the focus should be on providing emergency responders with much needed bandwidth prior to providing it writ large to the public. If the people coming to help can’t communicate, you have massive response issues on your hands. Granted, calling for help is important, but during major disasters the help is already on its way and they need to be able to coordinate and conduct operations.
3.) Cell phone companies promised in the wake of 9/11 they would increase their networks so this would “never happen again.” (Failure #2) Obviously, that didn’t happen as the recent DC quake demonstrated to frustrated people in the NCR. It was better..but still broken.
4.) It is rumored that contracts in place that provide dedicated land-line service to companies and governments alike to gain priority phone service failed during the DC quake. (Failure #3)
Overall, communications is what makes or breaks emergency notifications, updates, and the ability of responders to do their jobs. Focus should go first to the infrastructure that helps emergency responce personnel do their job in tough conditions, next to providing important information to the public, and finally being able to provide the remaining bandwidth to the people. This can obviously be split between government activities and private investments to achieve, but a coordinated responce is more than required. Though, in this context I have to say that the ability for the citizens to have access during emergencies comes second to the responders and government being able to coordinate responce operations and keep the public informed.
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