FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr echoed this sentiment that removing the public-safety designation from the 4.9 GHz band could be the best choice.

“In my view, the most valuable part of the notice might be found in some of its last few paragraphs,” Carr said. “There, we ask whether—in light of the past 16 years of results—we should fundamentally rethink our approach to the band, including opening it up for additional use cases.

“Over the years, the commission's spectrum policy has moved away from central planning—we've embraced flexible use approaches and declined requests to micromanage the use of particular bands. This approach, rather than our predictive judgment, has proven to reach better results. I welcome the chance to explore whether that approach might make sense for the 4.9 GHz band as well. I'm glad that my colleagues agree to expand the notice's discussion of these ideas, including the changes requested by Commissioner O'Rielly.

“There are a number of reasons why we've not batted 1.000 in our efforts to put the 4.9 GHz band to productive use, and I'm open-minded about whether we need to revisit our prior designations.”

Public-safety representatives anticipated that the FCC would approve a notice seeking to revisit usage policies regarding the 4.9 GHz band, particularly provisions that would let utilities and other critical-infrastructure entities leverage the band. However, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) would disagree with efforts to remove the public-safety designation from the 4.9 GHz band, according to Ralph Haller, chairman of NPSTC’s governing board.

“We believe the band should continue to be a public-safety band, with critical-infrastructure access, but it would be a huge mistake to repurpose it to commercial wireless,” Haller said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

Meanwhile, the Utilities Technology Council (UTC) expressed support for aspects of the FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking that would expand access to the 4.9 GHz band.

“UTC … supports expanding eligibility to include 'critical infrastructure industry' (CII) entities—such as utilities—to hold primary 4.9 GHz licenses,” UTC President and CEO Joy Ditto said in a prepared statement. “The 4.9 GHz band is lightly used and expanding eligibility to include utilities to hold primary licenses will help to make more effective use of the spectrum.

“UTC has worked with the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council to put forward a band plan that would include utilities as eligible to hold licenses in the band. The FCC proposal appears to address many of the priorities we identified in support of the NPSTC plan. Spectrum is the key to grid security and modernization, and this is an important and crucial first step. We look forward to working with the FCC and other stakeholders as this initiative moves forward.”