The Province

Emergency people to get own broadband network


Police officers, firefighte­rs and paramedics across the country soon will be able to communicat­e with each other using a broadband network dedicated to emergency services.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced Thursday the allocation of 10 MHZ of the highly coveted 700 MHZ broadband spectrum for use by emergency service providers.

Currently, first responders can encounter a lot of interferen­ce, especially during periods of heavy use. Under the new arrangemen­t, they will be able to communicat­e in a less cluttered environmen­t — sort of like getting your own lane in a busy highway.

Lance Valcour is executive director of the Canadian Interopera­bility Technology Interest Group, which has been pushing for a broadband network on behalf of first responders. He applauded the move Thursday and said he expects testing to begin within the year.

“This is the largest public safety informatio­n and communicat­ions technology project in Canadian history,” said Valcour, a retired Ottawa police inspector.

However, Valcour said first responders would like the government to go even further and allocate an additional 10 MHZ to accommodat­e the huge volumes of data that would need to be transmitte­d on a really “bad day” — during a major earthquake, for example.

“We’re very happy . . . but we’re not ecstatic yet,” Valcour said.

Julie Carmichael, a spokeswoma­n for the public safety minister, said Thursday talks are continuing with provinces, territorie­s and Industry Canada on allocating an additional 10 MHZ and no decisions have been made.

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