Denial by Canadian authorities is impeding direct communication
By DENISE A. RAYMO MALONE — Franklin County Emergency Services officials have been repeatedly frustrated by Canadian authorities who are refusing access to certain radio-band frequencies.Now, American politicians will be unleashed on the neighbors to the north in hopes of urging cooperation so rescue squads can directly communicate with each other.The new VHF frequencies would connect Enhanced 911 dispatchers, public and private emergency-medical service units, hospitals, county Public Health Nursing Service nurses and emergency-services personnel on one frequency and improve mobile and portable coordination and communication.County emergency-services officials say the ability to offer unit-to-unit conversations is important no matter if the call involves a widespread disaster or the average medical-aid situation.The county has applied to the Federal Communication Commission for frequencies to upgrade the emergency-medical technician network, and Canada must sign off on the plan in order for the FCC to free up the radio bands.But Canadian officials say they cannot spare any high-band radio frequencies to American authorities who are in close proximity to Montreal for fear there may be call interference.The upgrades are being urged by the federal government state Office of Fire Prevention and Control who have recommended interoperable-communication systems since the attacks of Sept. 11.Approval is usually awarded within six weeks of receipt of an application.But an application from Franklin County for that permission has been rejected twice because Canada will not relent, said Emergency Services Deputy Director Ricky Provost.Reading a portion from a letter objecting to the change, he said Canada is opposed because "harmful interference is anticipated."He said the universal hospital band frequency is 155.340 and that the number of digits beyond the 'dot' is no longer limited."There are four times more frequencies available now than there were five years ago," Provost said, "so it is not necessary for Canada to deny our frequency."He said the Canadians denied permission without even reading the reasoning or necessity for it in the application.Provost and his boss, Emergency Services Director Malcolm Jones, asked the Board of Legislature Thursday to send a letter to the FCC and copies to President George W. Bush, U.S. Rep. John McHugh (R-Pierrepont Manor) and U.S. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, seeking their help in finding a solution.He said Clinton County switched to an 800 MHz radio frequency system about 10 years ago, so it does not have to have the blessing of the Canadians to operate.Provost said the county has already received grant money to pay for the equipment needed to carry out the upgrades.But it cannot move forward without permission.He said if the upgrade money is not spent by December, it has to be refunded, and other emergency-services grants could be in jeopardy.