Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks exposed the communications difficulty that police, fire, and other personnel had in a crisis, government and public safety officials have wrestled with how to rebuild the nation’s emergency networks. Nine years later, that effort has reached a showdown between the FCC and public safety officials, reports the New York Times. The FCC is seeking to auction off a block of wireless broadband spectrum to the private sector, but public safety officials say the additional space on the public airwaves should be used instead for a dedicated emergency broadband network. With commercial wireless companies preparing to build the next generation of wireless communication networks, the resolution of the debate will determine whether public safety officials will be able to use the latest technology in emergencies. The two sides will face off on June 17 at a hearing before the House telecommunications subcommittee, which is considering legislation to pay for a public safety network. Over the last year, the disagreements over how to accomplish the goal have intensified. Attorney General Eric Holder said last October that he believed the new wireless spectrum should be turned over to public safety officials for a dedicated network. But the FCC has said auctioning the spectrum is a priority. On June 15, the agency released a technical white paper saying that police and fire departments could construct a better communications network at lower cost by using airwaves already dedicated to public safety use, supplemented by the right to take over commercial networks in an emergency…

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staff and wire services reports