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Sununu adds amendment to public-safety communications bill

Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) is pushing an amendment to a homeland security bill that would ensure Internet Protocol-based solutions are not excluded from government grants aimed at making public-safety communications interoperable.
Sununu’s proposed amendment is expected to be voted on this week in Senate floor action on a bill to implement unfinished recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The bill authorizes $3 billion for public-safety interoperability grants, an amount that would be in addition to $1 billion authorized last year for an interoperability grant program assigned to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the nearly $3 billion in first-responder interoperability support disbursed to date by the Department of Homeland Security.
Firefighters, police and medics had trouble communicating with each other after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Despite the billions of dollars spent to date to improve interoperable public-safety communications, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff concedes full-fledged interoperable public-safety communications is not available in most of the country. However, Chertoff has predicted the interoperability problem will be fixed by 2008.
Last week, the Senate approved a separate Sununu rider to homeland security legislation to require the State Department to report on the status of public-safety wireless licensing between the United States and Canada. In addition, Sununu is the author of homeland security bill language directing the Federal Communications Commission to examine the application process for public-safety radio licenses near international borders.
Sununu’s work is part of an effort to help law enforcement agencies and fire-rescue departments in northern border states gain access to critical radio channels and frequencies.
“Even as we focus on national security, we must ensure that red tape does not arbitrarily stop law enforcement from securing the tools they need. In northern New Hampshire, law enforcement agencies have been kept from using available radio channels and frequencies-representing a situation in which government bureaucracy may be putting personnel and American citizens in harm’s way,” said Sununu.
Spectrum in northern parts of New Hampshire overlap with portions of Canada. Public-safety radio systems in border states are governed by bilateral agreements between the United States and Canada. The State Department takes the lead in negotiating frequency coordination pacts with Canada and Mexico.
The United States submits spectrum requests to Canada and Mexico and vise versa, providing each an opportunity to determine whether requested frequencies will cause harmful interference.

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