Wisconsin looks to improve emergency communications network

Wisconsin looks to improve emergency communications network
Posted at 11:31 AM, Mar 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-26 12:31:44-04
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin officials are working to determine how to improve the statewide emergency communications network and who will pay for it.
The Wisconsin Interoperable System for Communications allows public safety agencies to communicate with one another across the state, and sometimes coverage can be spotty, Wisconsin Public Radio ( reported.
The state hired a consultant last year to examine networks in surrounding states and provide recommendations for maintaining Wisconsin's system.
"What we don't have right now is a good plan for when the equipment on WISCOM reaches end of life," said Josh Ripp, a program manager for the network at the Wisconsin Department of Justice. "We don't have an idea of how we're going to pay for the replacement equipment to put in that place."
The system went live on 80 state-owned towers in 2012 and has grown to include nearly 120 sites. Each Wisconsin county or community that provided the infrastructure for a network site also pays for tower maintenance.
The Department of Transportation, Wisconsin State Patrol and Department of Justice have also budgeted more than $1 million for system maintenance.
"There isn't a whole lot of extra money to add sites," Ripp said. "We do know that we have coverage spots that we need to fill in, but we don't have the money to build towers or put equipment on existing towers to fill that in."
Ripp said similar networks are supported by state funding. He said Illinois requires those on its system to pay a monthly user fee.
Douglas County Emergency Management Director Keith Kesler said some counties are opposed to Illinois' user fee model.
"Those of us who are already paying to maintain a piece of the system, we don't really want to have to pay anymore," Kesler said. "Our position is we don't think we should be paying. Or, that if they do want to put a user fee on, they should take the amount that we're paying and deduct it from the user fee."
The Department of Justice is expected to review a final draft report on recommendations for funding and maintaining the network in the coming weeks.
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