Three waiver cities in the San Francisco Bay Area recently asked the FCC to expedite approval of a transfer spectrum lease to gain the right to use 700 MHz broadband airwaves needed to implement the much-anticipated LTE network for first responders in the region.

As part of the request, the cities have asked the FCC to approve the lease transfer immediately instead of waiting until its normal 60-day consideration period expires “because the original lease was not authorized by the Bay Area Cities and should be deemed invalid.” If the spectrum lease with the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) — holder of the nationwide 700 MHz broadband license for public safety — can be transferred to the Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications System (BayRICS) Authority, it will help the proposed Motorola Solution LTE project meet its deadline of two-thirds completion by Aug 1.

“Grant of the instant waiver will serve the public interest by allowing the Bay Area Cities to enter the new spectrum lease with the PSST to immediately deploy a 700 MHz public-safety broadband network after years of substantial planning and investment,” the FCC filing reads.

In May 2010, the FCC granted a 700 MHz broadband waiver for early deployment of a public-safety broadband system to the city of Oakland, the city of San Jose and the city/county of San Francisco. In August 2010, the PSST signed a spectrum lease with the “San Francisco Bay Area Urban Area Region” — a nonexistent entity that was not authorized by the waiver cities to sign a spectrum lease.

This spectrum dispute is one of several controversies that have plagued the Bay Area Wireless Enhanced Broadband (BayWEB) project, which was selected to be the subject of $50.6 million in federal stimulus grants. However, unlike other public-safety stimulus projects, the money was not earmarked for the participating government entities but for the chosen vendor, Motorola Solutions.

When issues surrounding the spectrum and selection of Motorola Solutions became public, a new joint-powers governance entity — the BayRICS Authority — was established this summer to negotiate an agreement with Motorola Solutions for BayWEB. A final vote on the matter is scheduled for the latter half of this month, but Motorola Solutions officials have reiterated that the company wants to be assured that spectrum rights are secured before it begins investing millions of dollars into the proposed LTE network.

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