Federal Communications Commission

Report from Nov. 12 Georgetown Field Hearing on Broadband and Public Safety

November 20th, 2009 by Jennifer Manner - Deputy Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Jennifer Manner BB

We just wrapped up a fascinating field hearing held in conjunction with Dr. Howard Federoff and the Georgetown University Medical Center on public safety and emergency medical applications and requirements. The hearing included Under Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security Rand Beers as well as FCC Commissioners Clyburn, Copps and Baker. There was also a cast of experts whose valuable input will help us develop a National Broadband Plan with meaningful expectations and recommendations for public safety. Their attendance and participation only further highlighted how important it is that everyone in the public safety community come together to find solutions to the communication issues we’ve faced for quite sometime.  As Commissioner Copps noted, the National Broadband Plan presents as good an opportunity as we’ve had to solve these issues.  It was a truly insightful discussion. Here are some key points that were raised during our three-panel field hearing.
The first panel focused on innovative broadband applications used by emergency medical personnel. One example was from Dr. Richard Katz, Chief Cardiologist at George Washington University, who highlighted a program Georgetown University Medical Center uses that can display a patient’s complete chart and monitor EKG readings wirelessly from a smart phone device.  Dr. Katz indicated that he is able to write prescriptions for patients electronically no matter where he may be.  This helps better ensure that patients get the prescription drugs they need much more efficiently and quickly.  Another example of how broadband has helped treat patients was the use of electronic health records that greatly reduce medical costs and the chance for human error related to patient care. Thanks to Larry Flournoy of Texas A&M, Dr. Richard Katz of George Washington University, Jonathan Linkous of American Telemedicine Association, Bruce McFarlane of the National Organization on Disability and Kevin McGinnis of the Joint National EMS Leadership Conference for their participation.
During the second panel, we heard about exciting applications used by police departments that help officers quickly respond to emergencies, save lives and do their jobs easier. Tim Riley, the Chief Information Officer for the Los Angeles Police Department talked about the 1,800 LAPD squad cars that can send and receive broadband communication such as access to national databases, fingerprint identification, photos and video files -- this includes the ability to send electronic subpoenas.  An interesting point that many panelists agreed upon was that the commercial wireless systems in use now are not entirely reliable and coverage is not guaranteed, which was noted by several panelists as a way to emphasize the critical need for the build-out of a commercial mobile broadband network for public safety on the 700 MHz band.  Thanks to Randy Hughes of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bob Pavlak of the Government of the District of Columbia, Eddie Reyes of the Alexandria Police Department, Tim Riley of the Los Angeles Police Department, Greg Schaffer of the Department of Homeland Security and Richard Tuma of City of Waukesha, Wisconsin.
The third and final panel featured a spirited and interesting discussion on the requirements needed for the public safety wireless network.  Highlights of this discussion include the need for the network to be available anytime and anywhere, resilient, interoperable and secure.  Mission critical voice must be required as Land Mobile Radio communication is here to stay and remains a vital part of emergency response and should be supported by the network and devices.  The panelists also emphasized that it is essential that government at all levels, the public safety community and communications providers work together to pave a path forward for the development of a robust and interoperable mobile broadband network for America's first responders, hospital emergency departments and public health officials.  Thanks to Paul Mankiewich of Alcatel/Lucent, Bob Epsom of Motorola, Steve Harte of the City of New York, Dennis Martinez of Harris Corporation and Chief Charles Warner of the Charlottesville Fire Department.
The contributions of the wide variety of stakeholders who shared reports on the exciting and potential applications our brave medical and first responders will use with a public safety network, as well as their views on what we should include in the National Broadband Plan were truly fascinating.  This field hearing shed some light on the subject and will contribute significantly to the development of the public safety and homeland security section of the National Broadband Plan.
In case you missed it, you can view presentation materials and recorded webcast here. Please feel free to add to our discussion by leaving your comments.  I look forward to hearing from you.


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