NY legislator calls for investigation of state wireless public safety network

New York’s proposed state-wide public safety network has become the focus of controversy after first responders in Erie County found that a pilot operating in the county and the city of Buffalo did not meet their needs. This weekend a state legislator has called for a third-party investigation.

Erie County and Buffalo had agreed to participate as full partners in the state-wide network, expected to cost more than $2 billion, but rolled back their participation after tests of a pilot in Erie County and nearby Chautauqua County returned disappointing results. Erie County diminished its roll from full partner to “gateway partner,” which essentially means it will continue to use its own equipment for communications and connect its network to the statewide system when it becomes available. According to Rep. Timothy M. Kennedy, who called for the investigation, some emergency responders went so far as to declare the network “an absolute failure.”

In a guest editorial that ran Saturday in The Buffalo News, Kennedy said that “the concept of the network is admirable… I put my full faith in the City of Buffalo Police and Fire departments, Erie County Central Police Services, Erie County Fire Advisory Board, Erie County Sheriff’s Department and Erie County E-911 Committee to tell me what their equipment needs are. I trust their opinion.”

His comments came in response to guest columns printed earlier in the week from representatives of M/A Com, the contractor on the project, and the state Office for Technology. Kennedy reiterated his call for a third-party investigation “to determine if this system actually works and meets the federal standards for interoperable communications. The consultant must be managed by any state agency other than the Office for Technology.”

It’s tough to imagine such an immense technological project being managed without the Department for Technology. But this seems to be more than another political line in the sand. Erie County’s decision to diminish its involvement in the project cannot be taken lightly. The project appears to be troubled by more than politics. It has received strong bi-partisan support. The statewide network was conceived under the Republican administration of former Gov. George Pataki and has continued to received strong support under current Gov. Eiott Spitzer.

I’ve not heard directly from those involved. Can anyone who is close to this project offer some insight? We welcome your comments.

Click here to read The Buffalo News’ report on the proposed investigation.


  1. It is not the contractor for the implementation that Kennedy says must not fall under the oversight of the “Office for Technology.” Kennedy calls for the third party evaluator to be managed by a different agency than the one running the project being evaluated – a reasonable request, I believe. If the evaluator were beholden to the OfT, they would be more likely, one would reasonably guess, to have a positive evaluation of the project.

  2. At the time of the job award, there was some controversy over the selection of M/A Com vs. Motorola, relative performance on other projects of that size, and who lobbies for whom. You might want to check out that area. As the old adage goes, “follow the money”.

  3. I have spent five years of my life and too much of my homes equity following the decision making processes influenced by government lobbyists, consultants, purchasing processes and technology workshops whose job was and still is to fix our nation’s emergency communication system. Unfortunately, these processes were riddled with inept and corrupted decisions that sadly are beginning to show their results.

    My small but brilliant organization documented and offered known solutions to critical wireless emergency communication networks. We partnered with organizations that were ready to test their technology solutions and refine them in a real world environment. We even got earmarked grant money from a scope of work.

    This project model focused on a Community Network Integration (CNI) solution that could have put us much further ahead and saved our cities billions in relatively untested municipal wireless deployments. This project funding was sadly diverted in support of network solutions whose results now seem at best questionable.

    We keep wasting time throwing money at people and processes rather than focusing on real world tested technologies that could address our nations critically needed improvements in our emergency communication networks. Anyone out there want to support a model that will really fix the problem? We have been impatiently waiting.