Originally published: February 1, 2010
Last updated: February 1, 2010 - 4:40pm
Federal Communications Commission officials are committed to taking steps to ensure that a 700 MHz nationwide public-safety broadband network becomes a reality, but the proposal may not include the reallocation of the commercial D Block in the band to first responders, an FCC bureau chief said yesterday at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Winter Summit. Earlier this month, representatives from APCO and eight other public-safety organizations presented a united front to federal lawmakers and policy-makers in requesting the reallocation of the 10 MHz D Block to public safety, which also has been granted 10 MHz of 700 MHz broadband spectrum that has been licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST). Public-safety leaders would like to see the two swaths provide a 20 MHz spectral foundation for a nationwide public-safety network. Jamie Barnett, chief of the FCC's public-safety and homeland-security bureau, applauded the effort and described the requested D Block reallocation as "Plan A" for public safety. But current law requires the FCC to auction the D Block to commercial users, so the agency does not anticipate making a recommendation based on such an assumption in its national broadband plan — due to Congress on March 17 — he said. "It would be great to have 20 MHz," Barnett said. "The problem that we have right now as we pursue this is that the D Block is dedicated to commercial use — we're actually under a mandate to auction it. So we had to figure out a way to come up with a viable system even if you don't get the D Block." Instead, the FCC is pursuing a public/private proposal that calls for 700 MHz commercial carriers to build out the public-safety broadband wireless network — likely using LTE as public safety requested, although the FCC probably will not specify the technology in its broadband plan — while they deploy their commercial networks, which should greatly reduce the capital costs associated with the first-responder network, Barnett said.
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