Charlotte leaders are pushing a federal agency to approve plans for a wireless broadband network for public safety agencies in the county, arguing that it would help first responders communicate better during the Democratic National Convention.
The Internet network also would bring benefits for Charlotte long after the convention leaves town - one of several perks the city will reap from the DNC, including better gear for police officers, beefed-up police motorcycles and better video technology monitoring the center city. Police announced plans to spend $25 million of a federal security grant on new police equipment.
In the Federal Communications Commission filing, made public earlier this month, the city asks the agency to speed up Charlotte's application for the high-speed communication network "since the President of the United States and other key dignitaries will be in attendance" at the convention, which starts Sept. 4.
It's unclear when the FCC is expected to rule on the city's request.
According to the city's filing, the CHARMECK network would ultimately extend beyond the borders of Mecklenburg to serve as a backbone for a regional network. The network, which would operate on the 700MHz frequency, would not be accessible to most members of the public.
The wireless system would let first responders connect through computers and some mobile devices to a network of existing and new receivers on towers and on rooftops across the county, but doesn't involve the radio network already used by public safety officials. Firefighters, police officers, Secret Service agents, paramedics and other public safety officials could communicate seamlessly and have a coordinated response to an emergency, according to the filing.
In the Sept. 11 report published after the terrorist attacks, investigators found that a key problem for first responders was the inability of different agencies to speak with each other. After the attacks, municipalities, including Charlotte, scrambled to improve their communications systems.
The network, which would offer upload and download speeds comparable to a home Internet network, will offer other benefits to Charlotte and surrounding communities for years.
For example, it would give a first responder in an isolated part of the county the ability to stream video of an emergency to other officers. Agencies would also be able to upload and download images, have access to a real-time criminal database and coordinate tactical responses.
The FCC regulates public safety agencies' use of the 700MHz spectrum, which was freed up during the nation's digital TV transition. Since 2007, the FCC has worked toward establishing a nationwide digital communications network for police and other first responders using that piece of wireless spectrum.
The city received the green light to begin building a broadband infrastructure network for public safety and government use, but the FCC has to approve its plan.
City leaders and public safety officials have anticipated that the city would reap long-term benefits from the Democrats' decision, but police have declined to discuss many specifics about what types of equipment or technology they'll receive.
Last week, the department said it spent $1.73 million to upfit a command center at CMPD headquarters and $131,000 on new equipment for motorcycles. Staff writer and Meghan Cooke contributed.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less