FCC commissioners this week approved an order expanding the board of the national licensee for public safety’s 700 MHz spectrum, an action that is expected to let the likely designee to hire an agent/advisor as early as next week.

In the order, the FCC increased the licensee board from 11 members to 15 members. Organizations added to the board are the Forestry Conservation Communications Association (FCCA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA). In addition, two more at-large members were added, giving the board a total of four at-large seats.

Noting that the FCCA, AASHTO and the IMSA are members of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC), the FCC order removed NPSTC’s representation from the national licensee board.

Organizations wanting to serve as the national public-safety licensee are required to submit their applications to the FCC by Oct. 10. To date, only one organization—the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), a non-profit entity established in June specifically to fill this role—has expressed interest publicly in the position, which is expected to negotiate a deal with the winner of the commercial D Block auction to build and maintain a 700 MHz broadband wireless network for public-safety users.

PSST President Harlin McEwen applauded the FCC’s action, because FCCA, AASHTO and IMSA are charter members of the PSST with considerable expertise in frequency coordination, which will be a primary responsibility of the national public-safety licensee.

“It’s a nice order, because it gives a bit of an ‘attaboy’ for the three organizations,” McEwen said. “They were quite hurt by [not being named to the national-licensee board initially], because they’re good organizations and they’ve served the FCC faithfully.”

For the PSST, the FCC order is significant, because the PSST did not want to hire an agent/advisor until its board was constituted in a manner that aligned with FCC requirements, McEwen said. The PSST had narrowed a list of 10 applicants for agent/advisor to three finalists in August. The agent/advisor is expected to help the PSST—assuming it is named as the national licensee—establish public safety’s baseline requirements for the networks, which D Block bidders could reference when preparing their bids.

“We’re moving forward now,” McEwen said. “If everything goes well, I’m hoping we may be able to get the new board to select an agent, so we can begin our efforts to develop the statement of requirements that we need to do. … By the end of next week, I’m hopeful that we’ll select an agent.”

The FCC has scheduled the 700 MHz auction to begin on Jan. 16.