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Charlotte Area

City to Build Wireless Network for Police, Fire

Within a week, Charlotte City officials hope to finalize a contract that will create a super-fast wireless network exclusively for the county's public safety teams. The popularity of surfing the web on smart phones has led to problems for police and fire departments. While you're checking out the latest YouTube sensation or video chatting with friends on your smart phone, police and emergency responders are competing for the same wireless bandwidth to access information about criminals or locate the scene of an accident. The wireless network doesn't let public safety needs cut to the front of the line just because lives might be at stake. This has become an increasing problem in Charlotte. Take for instance, the night back in June when 65,000 soccer fans packed Bank of America stadium to see Mexico play Cuba. "That game was one in which many attendees were using their cell phones and our police department's lines got jammed up," says Mayor Anthony Foxx. "By creating a parallel system we're gonna be able to assure that our public safety folks will have ready access to each other. That exclusive wireless network for police and fire departments will be paid for with a federal stimulus grant of nearly $17 million, and some in-kind donations. Within a week, city officials hope to finalize a contract with Alcatel Lucent to build a 4G network that will only be used by public safety agencies. The City Council is scheduled to approve the contract on September 26th. The first phase will be rolled out in Uptown Charlotte by next summer, so police won't have to compete for bandwidth with all the bloggers, tweeters and reporters coming for the Democratic National Convention. The rest of Mecklenburg County's law enforcement and emergency response departments will have the network sometime in 2013.