The FCC this week released a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comments on the possible realignment of public-safety spectrum in the 700 MHz band to accommodate broadband applications for emergency responders.

Approved by the commission last week, the NPRM released this week is designed to help the FCC fulfill its pledge to evaluate whether a portion of the 24 MHz of spectrum allocated to public safety in the 700 MHz band would be best utilized to host broadband services.

“We found that emergency response providers would benefit from the development of an integrated, interoperable nationwide network capable of delivering broadband services throughout the country,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in a prepared statement. “This proceeding should help us ensure that our rules keep pace with the communications requirements of public safety and give first responders the communications capabilities they need to protect safety of life and property of the American public.”

Public safety will be able to use its allocated frequencies in the bands (764-776 MHz and 794-806 MHz) when the digital-television transition is completed in April 2009. The FCC tentatively has concluded that the 12 MHz earmarked for narrowband would not be altered. In the NPRM, the FCC seeks comment on three proposals—from the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC), Motorola and Lucent Technologies—for the reconfiguration of the 12 MHz of wideband spectrum for public safety.

However, NPSTC Chairman Vincent Stile said his organization spent much of this week debating the best way for the 12 MHz of wideband spectrum should be allocated.

“We had some great panels with a lot of information … but we couldn’t come up with any final consensus,” Stile said. “The jury’s still out.”

Comments on the NPRM are due to the FCC within 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register, an FCC source said.