Late this month, representatives of eight public-safety organizations will sit down in an attempt to reach agreement on the desired future of first-responder broadband networks in the 700 MHz band. Only time will tell whether they will succeed, but there is little doubt that such consensus is needed.

There has been considerable debate about to do in the band since the failure of the commercial D Block auction last year, but there's been little real progress realized.

The FCC proposed a watered-down version of its public-private partnership proposal that appears destined never to be voted on. Congress focused its criticism on the financial relationship between the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) — licensee of public safety's 10 MHz of broadband spectrum — and its former advisor, Cyren Call Communications. Representatives of major cities expressed a desire to pursue their own network buildouts on the D Block and public-safety spectrum, and nationwide carriers Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility have stated their willingness to back such a plan.

Without the pressure of a impending deadline — something that hampered the first D Block effort, as the FCC was forced to make many rushed decisions to adhere to a congressional mandate to auction 700 MHz spectrum early last year — there has been a healthy discussion about the pros and cons of the various proposals, and the issues have been clarified greatly during the past year.

With this in mind, it's refreshing to see these public-safety organizations working together to reach a consensus on the 700 MHz matter. Getting the FCC and/or Congress to act on public-safety issues is a challenging proposition, but recent history has shown that the normal glacial-like pace of these entities can be accelerated greatly when public safety presents a united front. After all, no policy-maker ever wants to be tagged with the "opposes public safety" label.

But, as we've noted in the space before, that advantage can be a double-edged sword. When there is no consensus within public safety on an issue, federal policy-makers tend to sit on their hands and refuse to take action, so they don't offend anyone.

That's a scenario that public safety needs to avoid, said Chris Moore, chairman of the spectrum working group for the Major Cities Chiefs.

"I think there are enough points of agreement that public safety can coalesce around a structure that works for everybody," Moore said. "The fact is, if we don't [reach a public-safety consensus], it's going to be very difficult for the FCC to act, and I think we're going to lose an opportunity that we won't see again.

Hopefully, all public-safety representatives will remember this message when participating in the meeting later this month.

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