Tennessee Awards $2M Grant to Public TV Stations for Public-Safety Pilot
Friday, September 28, 2018 | Comments

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security is making a $2 million grant to Tennessee’s public television stations to fund a pilot project that will deliver private, secure communications between first responders and their management teams in case of an emergency or natural disaster.

Arnold Hooper, Tennessee’s wireless communications director for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said the grant will be used to install datacasting equipment and software to leverage a portion of the broadcast transmission of each Tennessee public television station to deliver encrypted public-safety video, files, alerts and other data along with regular programming. This new capability will allow public-safety agencies to benefit from the existing infrastructure, licensed spectrum and ability to securely deliver content anywhere in the state to an unlimited number of specifically targeted receivers.

All public-safety content is secure and can only be accessed by personnel who have the credentials and receive equipment. The project will be completed in a 30-month timeline with initial stations being tested and placed into operation within six months of the grant. This first statewide datacasting system will be a model for regional and even national deployments in the future.

Using the datacasting capability and fiber connections already in place among the six Tennessee public TV stations, communications among police, fire, medical and government personnel can be targeted within the areas affected by a severe, life-threatening emergency or natural disaster.

“Jim Rout and I served together as county mayors,” Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner David W. Purkey said. “His credibility is so solid that when he and the PBS folks briefed this project to us after the Sevier County wildfire incident, we became excited about working with public television to improve emergency communications and information sharing throughout the state. Deputy Gov. Jim Henry and Commissioner of Finance and Administration Larry Martin played key roles in helping me brief Gov. [Bill] Haslam about tapping our reserves to make the project happen. It’s recognized as the first statewide project of its kind in the nation.”

The six TN stations are Memphis (WKNO), Martin/Lexington/Jackson (WLJT), Nashville (WNPT), Cookeville (WCTE), Knoxville/Sneedville (East TN PBS) and Chattanooga (WTCI).

“I am honored that all six public television stations across the state, who diligently serve their communities each and every day, are working together on a project that will serve our entire state with this new datacasting communication for safety,” said Vickie Lawson, president of East TN PBS and chairman of the Tennessee Public Television Council (TPTC). “We will be able to offer a piece of our airwaves to assist emergency state agencies, first responders and most of all help to protect and inform the residents of Tennessee. Thanks to the diligent work of the WKNO staff and board and commissioner Purkey’s office, all Tennessee public television stations have another great opportunity to provide increased service to the citizens of Tennessee.”

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