Update Manatee County's antiquated 911 system -- away from copper

June 14, 2014 

In a surprising disclosure during a Manatee County budget work session this week, residents learned the 911 emergency network is a copper-based telephone system some 40 years old.

Didn't copper pass away long ago as the leading way to communicate via phone? Anyone have a land line any more? Smart phones rule.

The county certainly needs cutting-edge technology in serving public safety needs, and a fiber network with Internet protocols is essential. That way, county Public Safety Director Ron Koper told commissioners, the public can communicate to 911 via texting, email and videos.

Imagine what a video or still image of a crime scene and suspects would do for law enforcement.

Plus, a new web-based system would allow quicker smart-phone tracking, a blessing for emergencies where the caller is not able to speak.

In addition, an upgraded modern system would bring efficiencies with 911 centers operated by the cities of Bradenton and Palmetto, routing all calls to one place. Chances of dropped calls, incorrect routing and other problems would diminish.

This technology is not cheap, with a projected cost of $1 million the first year (half paid with a state grant) and $5 million for a second phase.

Our question is simple: Why doesn't Manatee County already have this?

Copper? Still?

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