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For the Good of the Public

November 4, 2010

It’s pick on California week!  Oh, wait, that’s every week.

This one is a bit convoluted, but that’s the Register for you.  At the heart of this is the (mostly theoretical) Public Safety Spectrum. Thre’s a block of the frequency spectrum that many are trying to reserve for the creation of a public safety network that can be used nationwide for police, fire, etc.  It’s still in the works, and most of that particular spectrum is held by the federal government in the name of local governments.  So in the Bay, the sheriff of Alameda County recently signed an agreement with the feds to pilot a Bay-wide network for public safety…

The lease was signed in the (marvelously redundant) name of the “San Francisco Bay Area Urban Area Region” — an agency that, unfortunately for Alameda County sheriff Gregory Ahern, doesn’t seem to exist.

Which concerns San José mayor Chuck Reed, who also expressed concern about the process used to select Motorola to construct a $70m public-safety LTE network, of which $50.6m is to be paid by a US broadband stimulus grant.

Reed also noted that the city of San José hadn’t transferred its FCC waiver rights to the 700MHz spectrum to another jurisdiction — real or fictional — and so Ahern had no right to enter into an agreement with the PSST about it.

Well… apparently this is mostly just an argument over who actually has authority to speak in the Bay for the spectrum.  The sheriff took a leap in trying to jump-start this work, and now every other politico who wants their name on it is tap dancing in the minefield of who-cares frequency allocation.

The Reg mostly thinks this is just more roadblock to actually doing something with the spectrum.  Me?  I’m more interested in how long it’ll take for one of the most technically-advanced areas of the nation and world to actually pilot a public safety network that could be modeled elsewhere.  I guess for now we’ll keep on with CB radios and nice Glock for public safety.

This is fairly minor in either technology or politics, but I still think it’s telling.  If we can’t figure out how to get government to agree across boundaries to implement a method for better public safety communication, can we really hope that government can manage something more intellectually complex, like how to get back jobs?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2010 10:07 am

    Hello — I’m a visitor from NoOneOfAnyImport’s blog.

    Frequency allocation has been a multi-billion-dollar Federal business.

    I anticipate that this will come into play a few years from now in a different context: space solar power needs either of two microwave frequencies (higher than the ones at issue here) that are transparent to atmosphere and moisture, to get power to the ground. These will be strong noise signals in the area, and those frequencies will probably need to be dedicated to this purpose world-wide (since the satellites can beam power anywhere).

    It is the ultimate power source, but will likely be delayed by the same sort of tap dance.

    ===|==============/ Level Head

    • November 4, 2010 5:58 pm

      Oh, they’ll tap dance on more than that. We’ll have at least six environmental groups complaining about the birds that die from flowing through the stream, while six other environmental groups push to eliminate drilling because we can get enough power from stuff like this to power a small teapot.

      But yes, anything that involves federal intervention means red-sea levels of red tape.

      • November 4, 2010 6:57 pm

        It is private industry that should ultimately get those frequencies.

        The beam is surprisingly mild; we were doing experiments with birds in the beam back in the 1970s. The next effect is about a 15% increase from natural sunlight above the rectenna (which resembles a large net strung on poles) and about a 20% reduction below, so that crops can be grown in the desert.

        There’s enough power available to make abundant electricity for a billion years. And the whole silly Global Warming business would be mooted, as no CO2 is involved. (I predict that we will have to start doing something to keep the high CO2 levels in place, as they tremendously benefit plant growth.)

        We could raise the standard of living all over the world, and give the US something it could export in a big way: electricity.

        It requires the will by large private firms to spend billions, and I think they’re willing. And the government to get out of the way … and there’s the rub, as you suggest.

        ===|==============/ Level Head

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