FCC commissioners next Wednesday will consider a rulemaking that includes “implementing a nationwide, broadband, interoperable public-safety network in the 700 MHz band,” according to the agenda released by the agency this week.

During the past year, the FCC has received comments on multiple proceedings concerning the 700 MHz band, which is scheduled to be cleared by television broadcasters in February 2009. Under current law, 24 MHz will be earmarked for public-safety use and 60 MHz will be auctioned to commercial operators in a bidding process beginning by late January 2008.

Of the 24 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum designated to public safety, half of the airwaves currently will be used to enhance narrowband voice capacity. The other 12 MHz has been the subject of considerable debate and several proposals that would enable wideband and broadband uses.

A proposal from guard-band managers Access Spectrum and Pegasus Communications calls for the consolidation of narrowband channels in a way that would leave 5.5 MHz blocks of contiguous spectrum for broadband use. The guard-band managers have pledged to pay any additional incremental costs, if the FCC chooses to adopt their plan.

This 12 MHz also has been the subject of a proposal from Verizon Wireless, which met with public-safety organizations in August about the notion of a public-private partnership regarding the spectrum, according to several sources. Verizon Wireless officials have declined to acknowledge that any proposal exists.

Some online publications have reported that a draft of a proposed rulemaking that would earmark the 12 MHz for a nationwide public-safety network has circulated among FCC commissioners. In addition, Congress recently passed legislation requiring that $1 billion be allocated to public-safety interoperability in the band by Sept. 30, 2007 even though the U.S. Treasury likely will not have received the supporting auction proceeds by that time (See story below, “Congress accelerates $1 billion in interoperability funds”).

An FCC spokesman declined to comment on the agenda item, citing sunshine laws.

Perhaps the most talked-about 700 MHz plan is a proposal from Cyren Call Communications that calls for public safety to keep its 24 MHz of spectrum and gain another 30 MHz of spectrum—currently scheduled to be auctioned—which would be allocated to a public-safety broadband trust. The trust would lease the spectrum to commercial operators willing to build public-safety-grade networks that also could be leveraged for commercial purposes.

Last month, the FCC dismissed the Cyren Call petition without prejudice, noting that it lacked the authority to act on a proposal that would contradict a congressional mandate to auction the spectrum. With this in mind, Beltway sources believe the commission would not address the matter during the upcoming meeting. In the meantime, the FCC continued to receive comments on the proposal in a proceeding that ends this week.