The Bay Area is beginning to recover from the economic recession, but still faces high unemployment, depressed real estate values and other challenges in returning to long-term prosperity. During difficult economic times like these, it is hard to get business and labor to agree on anything. But a coalition of business and labor leaders — the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth — has come together to unanimously support the Bay Area Wireless Enhanced Broadband System (BayWEB), a new wireless broadband network that will help law enforcement and improve wireless access in underserved areas.
BayWEB has two major benefits. First and foremost is public safety. With BayWEB, police, fire and emergency medical service departments will gain access to a 4G long-term evolution wireless broadband network. Currently, first responders compete with the general public for access to broadband bandwidth, resulting in significant overload of commercial networks during normal daily activity. With their own 4G wireless broadband network on LTE, public safety users will have dedicated access to data in their vehicles or using handheld devices on the street.
By connecting the region’s public safety users through an interoperable network, BayWEB will help to better protect our communities. In a disaster situation, BayWEB will provide emergency responders with access to mission-critical information and help improve the delivery of health and safety services to millions of Northern California residents. In the event of evacuations, virtual command centers will allow critical systems to be accessed from any location over this enhanced wireless broadband network.
BayWEB will also improve wireless access in underserved areas. Community anchor institutions like community colleges, hospitals, health care providers, libraries and schools will have better access to broadband. Many communities in the Bay Area are economically distressed. Others still lack any access to broadband. BayWEB will provide these communities with broadband resources, helping to close the digital divide that exists even in the heart of Silicon Valley.
As local governments continue to tighten their financial belts, the $72.4 million BayWEB project will be funded through a $50.5 million federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant and $21.9 million in private funding from Motorola Solutions. And ownership of the system will ultimately be transferred to local Bay Area governments, providing the region with the opportunity to operate these systems and generate needed revenues.
Business and labor agree that BayWEB is exactly the kind of public-private partnership the region needs to enhance public safety communications and improve affordable public access to 4G high-speed wireless broadband services across the region.
Steve Falk, pictured, is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Vince Courtney is executive director of the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth.