Isaac Asimov once said that the sound of science isn’t “Eureka.” It’s “That’s interesting…” Same’s true of journalism.
An article floated across my screen yesterday to the effect that T-Mobile is rolling out “wireless priority service” in 15 markets, as part of its contract with the federal goverment. WPS was described as “priority cell telephone service to national security and emergency service personnel during emergencies.”
That’s interesting. You mean there’s a system in place to prioritize telecommunications?
Actually, yes. Googling “wireless priority service” yields some very interesting documents. This one describes the service, which development of which was accellerated after September 11. To get priority attention on the T-Mobile system, one apparently needs to dial *272 before one’s call. However, this page indicates that either (a) you maybe shouldn’t know that, or (b) you maybe shouldn’t use it if you do know — unless you’re one of these people. (I can’t tell you whether any of this works. It’s not that I can’t tell you — it’s that I don’t know. Haven’t tried it.) If you’re looking for a secure GSM phone, anyway, look here. The system is live in Washington, D.C. and New York City.
There is a similar wireline program called GETS — Government Emergency Telecommunications Service. GETS does require prior registration, and those who are authorized to use the system get a wallet card with an access code. No, I’ve never seen one but I’ve heard of this. This is the first I’ve ever seen that raises the system beyond the realm of Urban Legend. According to this document, the access numbers involve the 710 area code. This document says 70,535 GETS PINs have been issued by year-end 2002.
This whole thing is administered by an office called the National Communications System, the mission of which is:
Assist the President, the National Security Council, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget in (1) the exercise of the telecommunications functions and responsibilities, and (2) the coordination of the planning for and provision for national security and emergency preparedness communications for the Federal government under all circumstances, including crisis or emergency, attack, recovery and reconstitution.
Poking around these links, like so much of the Net, is edifying. And a little scary.