Document Type



Federal Communications Law Journal




The suboptimal state of communications technology used by public safety agencies has emerged as a high profile political issue. In most cases, public safety agencies are able only to communicate using antiquated networks, engineered solely for providing voice communications and unable to interoperate beyond a select number of users. This type of system fails to provide the type of economies of scale, network flexibility, or the broader functionalities routinely used by the military and private sector enterprises. The challenge facing policymakers is thus how to develop a next generation architecture for public safety and spur adoption of a new set of technologies that provide far greater functionality than today's systems as well as interoperate with a broad array of organizations involved in emergency response.

To change the culture and realities of public safety communications, this Article calls on policymakers to develop a new architecture for the use of information and communications technologies and provide a framework for leadership to transition to a next generation system for public safety communications. Such a culture change would include not only an embrace of new technologies, but a new framework for technology leadership - at the state or regional level - that spurs decisionmaking in a coordinated fashion (and not through ad hoc decisions by over 50,000 different local agencies). In short, this Article explains what new technologies can transform public safety communications and what intergovernmental relations strategy will be necessary to facilitate the implementation of such technologies.