CapWIN public-safety network plans new services, fees

CapWIN public-safety network plans new services, fees

Metropolitan Washington's Capital Wireless Integrated Network for first responders, under development since 2002, now has 425 active users at 23 federal, state and local agencies, deputy director Fred Davis said today.

Police, firefighters, and transportation and medical workers can keep up with homeland security and emergency situations around the metro area by logging in from secure virtual private network clients on their PCs, personal digital assistants, wireless phones and police radios.

Although CapWIN does not yet have global pop-up alerts, users who are online do see the screen refresh whenever a new discussion group forms about a breaking situation.

'They can instant-message their peers back and forth across jurisdictions and disciplines,' Davis said. 'This is a new kind of communication for them.'

For example, CapWIN handled cross-agency exchanges during recent derailments on the Metro subway and Amtrak lines as well as the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration. A Secret Service agent who was checking busloads of inaugural visitors at the Pentagon parking lot lost radio communication but was able to run checks through CapWIN, he said.

Some jurisdictions' radios and vehicle-mounted computers, however, still lack enough bandwidth for CapWIN's planned access to Web services, geographic information system maps and hazardous-material databases.

'Law enforcement runs hundreds of queries a week' against criminal-justice and other records, said Roddy Moscoso, the CapWIN client relations manager. 'Mobile data greatly expands an investigation of persons of interest. An officer who used to make a couple dozen queries a day can now make five or 10 times that. Information from the field is CapWIN's greatest strength'there's no phone game."

Discussion threads are archived, so someone joining a discussion can know what went on before. All users must log in through the IBM WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager client, which complies with Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 for encryption.

IBM Corp., the prime contractor, 'has finished most of the initial work,' Davis said, 'but it's still fine-tuning some aspects. As we go down the road toward becoming a legal entity under an interstate compact, we need to grow up' and hire more in-house technical staff for development.

CapWIN now has 10,000 concurrent-use licenses for secure connections to the Verizon Wireless cellular digital packet data network and its faster EV-DO network. But Verizon plans to shut off CDPD service in December 2005, which Davis called a concern. He said he hopes that Sprint Corp.'s EV-DO and Cingular Wireless' Edge networks 'will get us close to good wireless broadband around the area.'

Late this summer, CapWIN will pilot demonstrations of computer-aided dispatch and voice over IP connectivity between many types of land and mobile systems, including walkie-talkies, via the public switched telephone network. 'We know it's possible, and we want to put it into practice,' Moscoso said.

The Transportation Department has identified CapWIN as a project of national significance and contracted with Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego to evaluate its performance. A recent study by George Mason University of Fairfax, Va., suggested several interstate governance structures that would let CapWIN charge user fees and become self-sustaining. Initial development funding came from the Justice Department.

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