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Radio Plan Formed After 9/11 Needs More State Input, Walden Says

States need a larger role in forming a U.S. emergency-services radio network authorized by Congress after communication breakdowns among police and firefighters during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. lawmakers said.

That the First Responder Network Authority’s board doesn’t include a current state official “feels like an insider deal to me in terms of the federal government pretending to represent somebody it’s not,” Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, said at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing today. “We wanted somebody who was actually from a state.”

The committee held the hearing to assess progress of the emergency network, which would be paid for by $7 billion in proceeds from a U.S. auction of television airwaves to wireless phone carriers.

Congress passed legislation last February to fulfill a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission that investigated the attacks in New York and Washington.

Given the network’s ambition to cover the U.S. with a fraction of the resources available to the private sector, “states are understandably nervous that the combination of increased cost and insufficient funding will result in the uncovered cost being passed on to the state and local governments,” Chris McIntosh, Virginia statewide interoperable communications coordinator, told the committee.

President Barack Obama’s administration in August appointed 12 members to the board that runs the authority, known as FirstNet. The chairman is Sam Ginn, a senior adviser to New York-based investment bank Greenhill & Co. and former chairman of Vodafone AirTouch Plc, now Vodafone Group Plc.

Heather Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

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