July 22, 2009 By Andy Opsahl
Eligibility requirements for broadband stimulus grants should be changed to avoid excluding public safety agencies, a board officer of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International said Tuesday.
The association will send a letter requesting a rule change within the next few days, according to Richard Mirgon, the association's president-elect.
Mirgon said eligibility requirements for broadband stimulus grants will exclude numerous public safety agencies by mandating that proposed networks partner with community organizations, like universities or health-care providers. Public safety agencies that transmit Department of Homeland Security information, criminal histories and similar types of sensitive data are not permitted to use shared networks, Mirgon explained.
"I'm a firm believer in partnerships, but there are some applications for which public safety has to ensure the security of the network and the data being passed on that network. When you add other users, you potentially compromise the security," Mirgon said.
Public safety agencies that transmit less sensitive data could share broadband networks with other organizations, he added. "A good fit would be an area where you may have a fire station or substation in the same area as a health-care facility," Mirgon said, adding that fire departments could share networks with parks as well.
The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials will send its letter the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, one of the two federal agencies tasked with awarding $7.2 billion in stimulus for broadband projects.