The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will ask Congress for $16 billion to $18 billion to pay for building and maintaining a nationwide mobile broadband network for emergency response agencies, including police and fire departments, according to Computerworld Government, an IDG publication. The FCC will also recommend, in a national broadband plan due to be released this month, that mobile carriers that paid billions of dollars for spectrum in the 700MHz band be required to share their spectrum with public safety agencies, the agency chairman said on February 25. A grant program of up to $18 billion over 10 years is needed to get a nationwide, interoperable public safety network built, the chairman said in a press briefing. Public safety officials and U.S. lawmakers have been calling for a nationwide mobile broadband network since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., during which the multiple public safety agencies responding to the attacks couldn’t talk to each other. Asked if Congress might balk at spending $16 billion or more on a public safety network, the chairman said the network is necessary.

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