Verizon Wireless to Give Emergency Workers Priority Access

Verizon Wireless Inc. is negotiating a deal with the federal government that would give priority access to emergency workers in several high-risk areas during times a national emergency.

In a Nov. 5 statement, Verizon Wireless of Bedminster, N.J., said that it had not reached a deal with the government as had been reported by some media organizations but was still in negotiations.

Before the deal can be closed, the company said it needs to resolve some technological and regulatory issues with the National Communications System, the agency that oversees emergency communications for the federal government, and the Federal Communications Commission.
Company officials would not elaborate on those issues.

The discussions involve wireless priority access for emergency workers in New York, Washington and Salt Lake City, the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Verizon officials said.

The Government Emergency Telecommunications Service, which gives priority access to telephone calls made by qualified emergency personnel, does not currently provide priority access to users of cellular phones.

When emergency personnel are unable to complete emergency calls through regular telecommunications means, they can use a GETS "calling card" that provides priority access and increases the likelihood a call will be completed.

Federal, state and local governments as well as qualified private sector organizations are eligible for the cards. More than 50,000 GETS cards have been issued since the program started in 1992, according to the federal government.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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