page image

CHAPTER VIII - Public Safety

Similarly, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with the shift from wired to wireless in the area of public safety. When an emergency call is placed from a wired network, data such as the origin of the call is transmitted to first responders. There are reports that indicate significant declines in the number of emergency calls that transmit the origin of an emergency call. This shows that there is going to be a cost to maintaining this positive public safety element. There are, however, benefits to new technologies such as Text to 911 that show that there are tremendous advantages to public safety from wireless and wireless innovation.

Inherent in the concern about public safety is reliability. Many of the issues discussed with regard to reliability also pose significant issues within public safety.


The shift from wired to wireless is not going to be frictionless and concerns about ubiquity, affordability, competition, consumer protection, reliability and public safety should not be discounted. Although there were divided opinions about some of these factors, there was at least some consensus that public policy should incorporate a cost-benefit analysis. The magnitude of the particular costs and benefits are subject to disagreement.

As Blair Levin, Fellow in the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, noted, however:

In policymaking you never solve 100 percent of a problem. What you want to do is solve 80 percent of the problem, and then move on to the next problem. The consequences and costs of worrying about that last little bit are tremendous on policymakers. For example, in universal service approximately 60 percent of the cost of getting 100 percent of homes was on the last .02 percent of the homes. At that point the resources can be put to much better use addressing the first 80 percent of the next problem, and invariably new technology (satellite, for example), will come along to mitigate the rest of the first problem.

Share On