Government negotiates with Verizon for emergency cellular access

Government negotiates with Verizon for emergency cellular access

Verizon Wireless, the cellular service provider of Verizon Communications Inc., is negotiating with the government to provide federal, state and local emergency personnel with priority access to cellular service in times of crisis.

Priority access would let government personnel use cellular communications in emergency situations, when landlines are disrupted or cellular systems are swamped. Both of those problems affected emergency and personal communications on Sept. 11 in the area around the World Trade Center towers in New York. Under the agreement sought by the government, emergency officials would be given a priority code that would ensure access to the carrier's services.

The company said in a statement released today that it hopes to reach an agreement and resolve regulatory and technical issues soon, but a spokesman could give no timeframe. Negotiations are being conducted with the National Communications System, a federal agency.

Verizon, the nation's largest wireless service provider, would be one of the first carriers to provide such a service, which would be initially targeted for New York, Washington and Salt Lake City.

'It is something the entire industry is working on with government,' said Verizon spokesman Jeffrey Nelson. 'That does not necessarily mean that the entire industry will be involved in every phase of it.'

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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