The federal government has raised more than enough money to build a nationwide communications network for first responders.
The network will help police, firefighters, and other public-safety officials from different agencies communicate with each other during emergencies. It is intended to handle high-speed data, so officials should be able to send photos and videos to each other, helping them coordinate their responses.
The Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday that it has raised at least $10 billion from auctioning the rights to a band of wireless frequencies to cellular carriers. That number is expected to rise as the auction continues.
The high-speed communications network, called FirstNet, is estimated to cost $7 billion. Any auction revenue not used for the network will go toward paying down the federal debt.
The network was a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission Report. During the 2001 terrorist attacks, many responders from different jurisdictions were using incompatible radios and were unable to talk to each other. Firefighters rushed into the World Trade Center not knowing that the towers were about to collapse.
It took years for Congress to address the problem. Finally, in 2012, Congress passed a law to set aside a block of frequencies for public-safety officials. But Congress told the FCC to raise the money to build the nationwide network of cell towers that will handle the data.