NYC Pubcaster to Develop Homeland Security System Using DTV Spectrum

Thirteen/WNET New York has received a grant from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) to develop a prototype emergency alert system using the public broadcasters' digital spectrum for distributing emergency alerts, emergency response information, and command and control information to the public, first responders and homeland security personnel.

WNET is working with Rosettex Technology and Ventures Group -- under the auspices of the NTIA -- to develop the system. Rosettex is a joint venture between Sarnoff Corp. and SRI International.

The initial award, $500,000, will be used to develop and analyze an urban testbed project using Thirteen's licensed Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS) spectrum to effectively distribute information to first responders during national disasters. The ultimate goal will be to create a hybrid system in which both the ITFS and normal DTV spectrum bands are used to provide a variety of information and two-way communications to first responders. For example, the DTV channel could be used to broadcast traditional emergency alerts to the general public as well as to deliver supplemental datacast information about evacuation routes, emergency treatment center locations or similar emergency information to those with data receivers.

The same ITFS channel could also simultaneously disseminate encrypted data such as building blueprints, procedures for handling dangerous materials and other sensitive information to targeted emergency responders.

WNET President William F. Baker says he hopes the WNET system will "lead to national deployment of a system that will save lives across America."