Magazine article National Defense

Lawmakers Try to Save Spectrum for Police, Fire Departments

Magazine article National Defense

Lawmakers Try to Save Spectrum for Police, Fire Departments

Article excerpt

* The Federal Communications Commission in the release of its National Broadband Plan in April, said it was committed to bringing interoperable communications to the nation's emergency personnel.

"To ensure the safety of the American people, every first responder must have access to a nationwide, interoperable, broadband public safety network," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Details in the document, however, showed that the FCC is abandoning its plan to save the 700 MHz D-block of spectrum that was originally intended to be the exclusive domain of police and fire departments.

The D-block was made available three years ago after the switch from analog to digital television broadcasts. The original plan was to sell the spectrum to providers who would build up the network and offer their services to first responders. But the auction failed to garner a high enough bid.

The plan was in limbo for the last few years of the Bush administration. Now the FCC wants to auction off the valuable airwaves to commercial broadband providers, who would not be obligated to use the D-block exclusively for first responders. The space is highly coveted by both commercial providers and emergency personnel for its ability to penetrate buildings.

The National Broadband Plan said, "The FCC should quickly license the D block for commercial use, while implementing several requirements for the D block licensee(s) to maximize options for partnerships with public safety. …

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