There seems to be a lot of angst in the public-safety sector over the FCC's decision not to address the 700 MHz D Block auction before the commission is reconstituted after the inauguration of Barack Obama. I wonder why.

Certainly, the longer it takes to auction the D Block, the more problematic it becomes for the narrowband public-safety licensees currently operating in the 700 MHz band that would use the auction proceeds to execute a mandated migration to another portion of the band. But the real anxiety is being driven by fear that if the auction isn't executed soon, and a deal isn't struck shortly thereafter between the winning bidder(s) and public safety concerning the proposed shared network that would operate in the band, then the opportunity to bring first responder communications into the future will have been lost, possibly forever.

That is a better fate than being stuck with a bad deal that potentially could turn into a disaster.

While there is no question that the proposed 700 MHz broadband network would be a giant leap forward for public-safety communications, it doesn't have life-and-death urgency. Public safety can afford to be patient, and it should. The FCC's plan for the proposed network is burdened by so many ifs — if a bidder emerges, if a deal can be struck, if the commercial partner has the necessary capabilities and resources, if public safety will use the network if it gets built — that it is difficult to imagine it ever will come to fruition.

Sometimes the best deals are those you don't make. It might be best for public safety if the current opportunity is lost. This vital network should be built to public-safety specifications, and it should be paid for by taxpayers. That's where public safety should be putting its energy — and its considerable lobbying power. And the FCC should take whatever time it needs to get this right, whatever form it takes. While a well-functioning, nationwide wireless broadband network would be a boon for first responders, the opposite would be a mess beyond comprehension.