14 September 2005

Hurricane Katrina and telecommunications policy

There have been a number of comments related to telecom policy generally and Hurricane Katrina. The New America Foundation points to ways in which past spectrum policy failures may have contributed to the slower responses. Not surprisingly, a Congressman was critical of support for public safety communications.

The FCC has created a website to facilitate recovery efforts.

1 comment:

Phil Cox said...

The comments related to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, as it pertains to telecommuncations, bring up two issues. First, could more wireless internet access have been provided, particularly in rural areas, to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the storm, to give them access to information about loved ones, among other uses. The proposed use of unused spectrum in the TV channels by unlicensed wireless ISPs goes beyond the issue of emergency communication, and raises a number of technical and commercial use questions. The papers cited promote the contention that there would be no interference problems. That may be true, but communication in the VHF and UHF bands is very different than what is currently in use for WLANs. Propagation can be much farther, and sometimes even subject to atmospheric hop. The spectrum needed by a wireless LAN is 25 MHz, which is about 4 TV channels. Is there a way in current or proposed regulations, that the unused TV channels could be licensed to commercial WISPs?

The second issue, which is more directly related to emergency response, is the inability of various public service agencies to communicate with each other, particularily when the normal communication channels are disabled. There still doesn't seem to be a backup plan in place to handle various contingencies. The article about Rep. Stupak's call for investment in interoperability mentions a price of $18 billion for full interoperability. Have there been any proposed systems that would provide that interoperability on a temporary basis that could be set up in an emergency that would cost less? What technical and policy challenges have to be overcome to make such a system a reality?