Congress should reallocate the 10 MHz commercial D Block spectrum in the 700 MHz band for public-safety use. So voted the board of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) — the nationwide license of the public-safety broadband spectrum adjacent to the D Block.

Public-safety organizations such as the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) have expressed their support for the D Block to be dedicated to public-safety use. While the PSST board had directed Chairman Harlin McEwen to work with these organizations, the board's vote marked the first formal action on the matter.

“This is a very clear, strong and unequivocal position,” McEwen said.

Among the PSST board members, only the representative from the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) opposed the majority position. NENA has proposed that both the D Block and the public-safety spectrum held by the PSST be auctioned by the FCC to a commercial operator. According to a PSST press release, the PSST board discussed the NENA proposal but voted not to support it. Instead, the PSST voted to encourage NENA to support the majority position of asking the FCC to recommend that Congress allocate the D Block to public safety.

“Everybody else [on the PSST board] is in harmony, and we're asking [NENA] to join us, as well,” McEwen said.

NENA officials have expressed concern over whether a viable economic model for a national broadband network using the D Block and the PSST spectrum can be achieved if both swaths of spectrum are licensed to public safety.

Patrick Halley, NENA's government affairs director, questioned the viability of the public-safety sector trying to fund the network in large measure by leasing excess capacity to commercial entities. “We're not sure that there's that big of a shortage in rural America and that there's going to be all these folks lining up to partner with a public-safety entity,” Halley said. “That's a very big concern. Also, the idea of having a bunch of one-off negotiations with the licensee outside of the normal FCC authority to impose requirements — as they would with auction rules — creates a concern regarding whether a nationwide network would be built any time soon.”