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Miss. Wireless Communications Commission Halts Broadband Network Construction: Part 2

By Evelina Burnett | Published 25 Jul 2013 08:34pm | comments
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The Mississippi Wireless Communications Commission has frozen construction of a broadband data network for emergency responders. In Part 2 of our story about the commission, we find out why the agency put the brakes on the $53 million project. 

The state wireless communications commission has 144 towers stretching from one end of Mississippi to the other. It’s created a statewide radio system for first responders.

A few years ago, the commission decided to use that existing infrastructure to build a broadband data network for first responders.  It would also give emergency and law enforcement officers access to live-streaming video, criminal databases and other information.

Biloxi police Sgt Michael Brumley says the towers and the system serves several purposes for law enforcement and first responders alike.

"Whether it's video, whether you need it to use on an in-car vehicle to hook into a state camera system, maybe to monitor contraflow on the interstate, maybe had some major function going on and you had taskforces coming from other areas to be able to get live feed video into the vehicles," explains Brumley.   

The state received a $70 million federal grant in 2010 for the broadband project. But two years later, Congress created the First Responder Network Authority, or First Net, which was charged with building a nationwide public safety broadband network.  It’s still working on what the technical specifications of that network will be, and meanwhile, grants to Mississippi and six other state and city projects were partially suspended. Mississippi Emergency Management director Robert Latham is chair of the state’s wireless commission. He says he hopes that their infrastructure will ultimately be used for the national system. 

"Whenever they decide what they're going to do about the build-out as a nation, that they enable us to use what we've done already and build on the back of that and even, we're asking them for reimbursement on some of those costs because if any part of the system or any part of our infrastructure is going to be used, then we should be reimbursed for those costs," says Latham.        

First Net was also granted the license for the public safety broadband spectrum, and the state and city projects were told to negotiate leases for the spectrum with First Net. As of Thursday, only one of the seven grantees, Los Angeles, has come to an agreement with FirstNet. 



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