For the better part of an hour yesterday, City Council chambers was filled with enough tepid tech-speak to make you go cross-eyed.
City officials and representatives from Motorola and Verizon attended a hearing before the Committee on Public Safety to explain recent problems with the much-maligned police and fire radio system.
A failure of Verizon network equipment was blamed for bonking noises that cops heard on their radios on March 24, when eight of the city's 10 radio towers were knocked offline for about four minutes, said Allan Frank, the city's chief technology officer.
And a broken antenna at the Victory Gardens tower left cops in South and Southwest Philly in silence on April 12 and 13 as a tower in Grays Ferry was shut down for maintenance work, Frank noted.
The explanations were thorough yet frustratingly familiar. Questions about the reliability and effectiveness of the radio system have haunted the city for much of the past decade.
"There is this confidence issue that we're trying to build up," noted Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison.
Last spring, Council voted to pay Motorola $34.5 million to upgrade the system. Councilman Frank Rizzo, who called for yesterday's hearing, wondered whether "the upgrade is resolving these issues."
All agreed to answer Rizzo's question - and others raised about how to enable radios to work underground and in high-rise buildings - with a report on the progress of the upgrade in six months.
Bill Gault, president of the Internal Association of Fire Fighters Local 22, summed up the long-simmering frustration with the system: "Radios are our lifeline. If they don't work, we die."