The Morgan O’Brien Plan
Arshad Mohammed writes in The Washington Post about Morgan O’Brien (a Nextel Communications founder) who has a Big Idea. O’Brien wants the US government to set aside a block of radio frequency to be used nationwide by first responders.
A key lesson learned from the 9/11 tragedy is that our current patchwork quilt of incompatible radio systems makes it impossible for police, firefighters and other services to communicate e quickly and efficiently.
O’Brien’s dream is to persuade Congress to set aside a slice of radio spectrum worth billions of dollars to the federal Treasury and put it into a public trust, which then would lease it to private companies that would finance the network.
First and foremost, [O'Brien] said it [the new network] could provide new wireless services — such as streaming video and broadband Internet access — for police, fire and medical personnel who now use a patchwork of thousands of independent and typically incompatible radio systems.
The network’s spare capacity — which O’Brien said would probably be “humongous” — would be exploited for profit by companies that might offer wireless broadband service for consumers or secure financial transactions for banks.
As you’d imagine, existing wireless service providers, the Verizons and AT&Ts (Cingular) of the world are not exactly enthusiastic about this proposal. But uniform frequency across the US makes sense, as is moving emergency service first responder radio systems into the age of streaming video.
The $5 billion the government would forgo by not auctioning this spectrum is about what we spend in Iraq in any 90-day period. Let’s get our priorities straight. We can easily afford this proposal, and having it operated by private enterprise (with appropriate controls) makes sense.
Just do it.