The Cyren Call Communications proposal advocating a public/private partnership to build a public-safety broadband wireless network on 30 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum has started to gather significant momentum in the form of public-safety organizations' support.

In the weeks since the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials announced its landmark decision to support the notion of a public/private 700 MHz broadband partnership, the National Emergency Number Association and several statewide public-safety associations have taken similar positions.

As of press time, neither the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) or the International Association of Fire Chiefs had taken a formal position on the matter, but officials for both organizations acknowledged the national groups were considering it.

“The interest and support is increasing fairly regularly,” said Harlin McEwen, chairman of the IACP's communications and technology committee. “What is happening is that the grassroots people are supporting this, and that is putting pressure on the national organizations to do the same.”

Complicating matters is the reported existence of a Verizon Wireless proposal for a public/private network at 700 MHz, utilizing the 12 MHz of spectrum already allotted to public safety instead of the 30 MHz currently scheduled to be auctioned by early 2008 (see story on page 24).

However, Verizon Wireless had not publicly acknowledged the existence of such a proposal as of press time, citing a “quiet period” related to the advanced wireless services auction conducted last month (see story on page 19).

If public safety forms a consensus, many Beltway observers believe the chances of the FCC opening a proceeding to consider a public/private broadband network would greatly increase, especially since CTIA — representing carriers like Verizon Wireless — was among the key opponents.

To date, there have been no signs from Capitol Hill that Congress is willing to deviate from its plan to auction the 30 MHz of spectrum. But Cyren Call officials remain hopeful.

“For our proposal to succeed, it will be necessary to have legislative changes because currently the spectrum is slated to be auctioned,” said Cyren Call CEO Morgan O'Brien. “We're drafting legislation and working with representatives of public safety on that legislation, hoping to submit [it] when the time is right.”

Based on the media reports, O'Brien questioned whether Verizon Wireless' proposal would satisfy public safety's future broadband needs. “I don't find using 12 MHz of spectrum satisfactory as a solution to the problem as I understand it, but that's what opening a proceeding is designed to determine,” he said.