WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant have welcomed the release of $33 million in federal funding to allow the state to implement infrastructure to enhance coordination among emergency responders statewide.
The approval of the Broadband Technology Opportunity Project (BTOP) grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce ends years of negotiations among federal agencies, the Senators, the State of Mississippi, and others to advance this effort to improve the state’s emergency communications capabilities.
Permitting Mississippi to utilize the BTOP funding in this way will allow the state to increase utilization of the Mississippi Wireless Information Network (MSWIN) system, establish a state-of-the-art integrated public safety communications center, and advance the Mississippi Tele-Assist System. The award will extend through June 2020.
Senator Cochran said this was much needed funding.
“The need for a strong communications network is one of the many important lessons our state has learned from disaster response. This funding is important to ensure that emergency responders can offer timely and lifesaving care,”Cochran said. “I am pleased that we finally obtained the federal go-ahead to complete a project started nearly six years ago to build on Mississippi’s first-rate capabilities.”
Senator Wicker said the years of battling for the funding was worth it.
“Years of hard work, persistence, and a lot of patience have finally paid off,” Wicker said. “The promise this technology holds for Mississippians cannot be overstated. This high-tech emergency network will save lives. I especially want to thank Secretary Pritzker for working with us to navigate the regulatory and administrative hurdles necessary to get the green light. This is a major win for our state.”
Governor Bryant said this will help save lives during emergencies.
“Systems that allow for quick and dependable communication among emergency personnel are essential to minimizing or eliminating loss of life and property in a disaster. It is critical that this technology be available to Mississippians. I am thankful to Senator Cochran, Senator Wicker, UMMC and everyone involved in making the funding for it a reality,” Bryant said.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) will play a key role in the completion of the project, as the state’s leading institution for advancing telehealth and emergency communications improvements. The integrated public safety complex will house an enhanced and expanded Mississippi MED-COM, a research and development center for mobile telemedicine applications, and an educational center on the use of technology for field deployment of emergency medicine applications. The grant will also help expand the UMMC-led Mississippi Tele-Assist System, which involves deploying emergency vehicles with the ability to transmit life-saving images.
“We are eager to do our part through training and coordination to improve care in our state, even in its most rural areas. This project builds on our already strong foundations in telehealth and emergency response, and will directly support our top mission – improving the health of all Mississippians,” UMMC Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Dr. LouAnn Woodward.
The award of the federal funding would culminate a broadband project started in 2010 with the award of a $70 million BTOP grant to Mississippi. Despite nationally-significant achievement, the state’s progress was suspended in 2012 for the federal government to create a national interoperable broadband public safety network.
The Mississippi officials have expressed gratitude to officials from the Commerce Department, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and other federal agencies for their flexibility and their recognition of Mississippi’s unique statewide interoperable communications network for first responders.