State to design, launch exclusive broadband network for first responders

Posted at: 10/07/2013 10:29 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

First responders in New Mexico will soon have access to a broadband network designed exclusively for them.

Gone will be the days of high-tech dead spots that plague them and consumers alike.

“We're in a valley, we're in a canyon, depending where the cell tower's set up, a lot of times it can hit, a lot of times it can't,” Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez with New Mexico State Police said.

He took the 4 On Your Side team along for a ride that proved how difficult it is for officers to access critical data on in-cruiser computers, including mugshots, warrants, of motor vehicle records.

Gutierrez said aside from the troubles of working in tough terrain, officers run into the same trouble in large crowds.  At Balloon Fiesta, for instance, he said officers have to compete with thousands of consumers trying to make phone calls, text message, or upload photographs across the area’s cell phone network.

Of course, he said traditional two-way radios serve as a fail-safe backup, but it slows down their job considerably.

“But it's much more convenient for them to be able to use all of the tools in their toolbox, rather than just that one,” Jacqueline Miller, Deputy Secretary of Information Technology in New Mexico said.

Miller said New Mexico recently signed a spectrum lease agreement with FirstNet, officially opening the door to establishing the dedicated high-speed, broadband network for New Mexico’s public safety personnel.  FirstNet is a division of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is part of the United States Department of Commerce.

“With this new system, public safety users, firefighters, law enforcement, EMTs, will have a private network,” she said.

Altogether, Miller said New Mexico’s portion of the system will establish a model for the rest of the country.  In New Mexico, a $55 million federal grant will pay for the infrastructure and equipment.

In the next nine months or so – the second quarter of next year – Miller said the new broadband network will serve Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and areas along the U.S. and Mexico border.