Those of us in public safety know why we are here. It’s about service to our community, nation, friends and family. I remember as a young deputy sheriff a friend and co-worker, Al Nelson, was talking about what we do. What he said that stuck with me for over 45 years was that those of us in public safety are what makes the difference between a world of chaos and anarchy, and world of safety and civilization. What brings this to mind was a recent conversation with another friend from the private sector who couldn’t believe a “chief” we knew was looking at taking a job in government when that person could make so much more in the private sector. As I just noted and explained to this person it’s about service. It’s about the simple fact we are dedicated to protecting others, whether it is in the communication center, in a burning building, trying to do CPR on a person trapped in a building about to collapse or standing between the armed assailant and innocent people on the street.
So where am I going with this? It’s about how much of the private sector doesn’t understand us and our mission. It’s about how companies will claim to be there for us, but really, they are there for their profit. Now, don’t get me wrong there are many who have their “heart” in the right place and many who started their business to support what we do or have moved their company to do the “right thing” for public safety. It is their way of giving back. Yet, we have businesses that are there for their own goals, not ours, which can conflict with what is best for us in public safety. These are our “Frenemy’s”.
One such example of how this works against us can be seen in the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA). This is an association made up of smaller wireless companies that in some cases provide services and products to public safety but is focused on the private sector. Their website clearly states “The Enterprise Wireless Alliance is the leading national trade association and advocate for business enterprises, private carrier operators, equipment manufacturers, and service providers that support the private wireless industry.” That is not us. They do, on occasion agree with our positions related to spectrum, but only when it meets their needs and mission. They do this mostly unnoticed through regulatory filings and with their government relations team in Washington DC. And let’s be clear, they do this because it is in their own best interest. In the instances where they connect with public safety it is about push to talk radio. They are not our friend when it comes to broadband. We have spectrum they want.
What has not been noticed by most is that over the last several months EWA has been filing comments in opposition to the allocation of 4.9 GHz spectrum to public safety. They are working to carve off a piece of that spectrum for commercial use and to keep the spectrum for legacy public safety technology that is 25 years old. In their annual report they are clear that their position on 4.9 GHz is driven for the basic purpose of giving them and their members access to our public safety spectrum.
So, my point, as many of you will see, is as we focus on serving our community there are those businesses such as EWA who we associate with who are there for their members and we are a means to that end. We in public safety work day in and day out to protect our communities along with those of us who have retired and now work to find technology and spectrum to support that effort. EWA works to keep that spectrum from you. They can claim to be supporting us by suggesting that states have control, knowing that is a failed model, that history is showing that model doesn’t work. The goal of these efforts is to place them in a position to access that spectrum for themselves. Now to be fair they have supported public safety positions in the past, when it is good for their members. This single issue is of high value to their members and contrary to what is best for public safety.
At the end of the day “you’re either with us or against us”. It would seem that the question would have to be asked why would public safety want to do business with any company associated with this association? With EWA working to take our spectrum for their use why wouldn’t we have a focused effort to call out them and their members for this anti-public safety position. It would seem that they run the risk that public safety would not do business with those who support this anti-public safety activity.