Nearly 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks revealed problems with police and fire radios, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly say a national crisis communications system is long overdue.
A nationwide wireless broadband network for emergency responders was one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
Kelly said the 9/11 attacks showed the need for a "safe and secure" communications network that "we can depend on."
He said the systems now in use are controlled by private business and are not as effective.
"The lack of a common radio spectrum prevents us from establishing a truly seamless nationwide system for all first responders," Kelly said.
Gillibrand said that after years of delay, she is confident the bill can pass this year.
She said two portions of the broadcast spectrum would need to be reserved for exclusive use by emergency responders so that data and voice communications can be shared.
"It's time to bring our technology into the 21st century," she said. "We must ensure that local, state and federal first responders can effectively communicate with each other in real time during a national crisis."
Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean, former heads of the 9/11 Commission, told the Senate in a past hearing that they still support the plan.
"To date, this recommendation languishes. We find this unacceptable, because quite literally lives are at stake, " the pair said in a prepared statement.