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MISA/ASIM Canada Urges Industry Canada To Open Up Public Safety Broadband

December 21, 2012   (0 Comments)
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The federal government should designate specific frequencies within the wireless broadband spectrum for use by municipalities for all of their purposes, not just public safety, MISA/ASIM Canada has recommended.

Municipalities cannot afford to purchase two wireless networks, one for public safety and another for general purposes, as would be the case under the government’s current proposal, MISA/ASIM Canada said in a letter to Industry Canada.

The letter, dated October 23, 2012, and signed by MISA/ASIM Canada President Kathryn Bulko, was in response to the government’s request for comment on an element of its plan, announced in March 2012, to set aside some spectrum in the 700 MHz band for public safety broadband.

Industry Canada specifically asked for comment on what is called the "D block” of spectrum (788-793 MHz), which it wants to use for a national mobile broadband network to deliver high-speed data services to Canada’s public safety community.

This follows a similar move in the United States. In February, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation to allocate the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety and provide $7 billion in federal funding to help build a nationwide high-speed network for first responders.

In Canada, Industry Canada is asking if the D block of spectrum should be reserved for emergency-service providers, called "Category 1” organizations, or if this spectrum should also be available to other "Category 2” government bodies that potentially could be involved in public safety, such as transportation or public works departments.

MISA/ASIM Canada’s position is that municipalities should not be forced to purchase equipment for two separate radio systems – one for emergency service providers and another for other municipal departments.

Many Departments Affect Safety

"MISA/ASIM Canada believes that it is essential to permit municipalities to use this network for day-to-day operations as well as during emergencies for both Category 1 and 2 groups,” the letter states.

"MISA/ASIM Canada also asserts that most if not all municipal departments contribute to public safety, and are therefore Category 2 users.”

The submission was prepared by a working group led by Rob Schneider, vice-president of MISA/ASIM Canada and director of information technology for Strathcona County, Alberta. He consulted with the nine-member MISA/ASIM Canada Board of Directors as well as Geoff Hogan of Grey County, Ontario, president of MISA Ontario, and Mike Richard, manager of strategic projects for the City of Fredericton.

The complete letter is posted at https://sites.google.com/site/misaasimcanada. It emphasizes MISA/ASIM Canada’s concern that municipal wireless communications should not be fragmented.

"The integration of public works, transit, utilities, GIS, planning and other information sources is becoming more critical to optimize the success of emergency services,” the letter says.

"Even municipal-wide services such as e-mail, instant messaging and collaboration facilities as well as human resources, financial and procurement systems are becoming an important part of a successful emergency services role.”

The letter also comments on Industry Canada’s assumptions concerning the availability of commercial equipment for the D block, saying that consumer devices such as tablets and smartphones would probably not be usable.

"The concern is that, if this part of the spectrum were reserved for public safety use, consumer devices would not have the ability to work on these frequencies,” Schneider said in an interview.

"For example, iPads are commonly used in our emergency services department, yet they will probably never be able to use this spectrum since the manufacturer of the device (Apple in this case) will not see the economic value in modifying the iPad to work in this spectrum if it is available only for public safety use. The market is too small.