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CTIA FOUNDATION IMPLEMENTS PUBLIC SERVICE WIRELESS PROJECTS

One mission of the CTIA Foundation for Wireless Communications is to undertake innovative wireless projects, like the one beginning today in Minnesota.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association Foundation is giving 40 phones to a task force for battered women that covers nine counties in the central part of the state.

Preprogrammed phones will be loaned to women in immediate danger, who may need to quick-dial emergency 911 or task force helpers. Task force workers will carry both phones and donated laptop computers, so they can do quick database checks en route to an emergency scene. Background information is considered critical to mediators handling domestic disputes, who need to know whether the attacker owns weapons, is known to be extremely violent or defers to authority.

The Foundation paid for the Motorola Inc. analog phones. Airtime is being donated by Rural Cellular Corp., U S West Cellular and Cellular Mobile Systems of St. Cloud, Minn.

“They [cellular companies] are cooperating for the greater good,” says Mary Roddy Betzler, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation.

Since the program is only a pilot, it will be reviewed in 18 months.

“We’re trying to keep this low key,” said Bill Casto, general manager of Cellular Mobile Systems, which operates as Cellular 2000 of St. Cloud. “But if you do the right thing long enough, the right thing will happen.”

The ClassLink program that puts wireless systems in U.S. public schools is the most well-known initiative of the Foundation.

In-building wireless systems, such as Panasonic’s distributed radio system BusinessLink, have been installed in 35 schools nationwide, primarily at low-income facilities. Generally, a cellular operator chose a school in its area, installed the microcell equipment and the Foundation paid for the equipment. The Foundation also bought the phones, which are donated to the school district. The program was launched a year ago, and will be reviewed in six months. The Foundation has commitments from carriers to put wireless in 53 more schools, totaling 88 sites chosen; the goal is 100.

Wireless is helpful in schools because teachers can manage sticky situations, such as calling a parent or the main office, without leaving the classroom, said James Singleton, principal of Edward T. Davis Elementary School in Montgomery, Ala. In-school wireless is being launched there by Palmer Wireless Inc.

The Foundation also has launched a wireless pilot program at the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana. Phones and laptops have been given to the tribal mental health program. Some phones go home with families in crisis; phones and laptops are used by mobile healthcare workers.

Airtime is donated by Denver-based Commnet Cellular, which is the B-system operator in all 10 Montana rural service areas.

Not all cellular operators are working through the Foundation to do such projects. BellSouth Mobility Inc. has donated 50 phones to the Victim-Witness Assistance Program in Atlanta. The protection group and eight other agencies offer help to people whose lives may be threatened, who are being stalked or who live in violent situations.

AT&T Corp. has its own foundation, which intends to install a wireless system in 100 schools. So far, AT&T has granted Miami Edison High School in-building infrastructure equipment, 20 cellular phones and two years of free airtime; the system is valued at $75,000.

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