The FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the fate of the 10 MHz D Block was published in the Federal Register this week, which officially started the comment period on the open-ended item that seeks input on a number of issues regarding plans for public safety in the 700 MHz band.

Last week, the FCC unanimously approved the NPRM, which was quickly published in the Federal Register on Wednesday. As a result, comments on the item are due by June 20, and reply comments are due by July 7.

With this in mind, most Beltway sources believe the FCC hopes to make a final rulemaking on the issue in late July or August to enable a reauction of the commercial D Block in the fall, probably in late October or November.

Early this year, the FCC tried to auction the D Block as part of the 700 MHz auction. While the rest of the auction garnered more than $19 billion in winning bids, the D Block received only one bid that was well below the commission’s reserve price of $1.3 billion. As a result, plans to have the D Block winner and the Public Safety Spectrum Trust negotiate a network sharing agreement to build and maintain a nationwide broadband wireless network for public-safety and commercial use were put on hold.

Absent a very unlikely large funding source from Congress, such a public-private arrangement “represents the last best hope we have” for a nationwide network being built for public safety,” Commissioner Michael Copps said last week in an opinion shared by most at the FCC.

However, given the absence of interested D Block bidders the first time, the FCC is considering new rules for the spectrum. In the NPRM, the FCC seeks comments on several issues, including performance requirements and the license term for the D Block winner, whether the spectrum should be licensed nationwide or on a regional basis, and whether the 10 MHz of public-safety spectrum should be limited only to public safety use.

In addition, several members of Congress have expressed concern that the Public Safety Spectrum Trust—a non-profit organization—had hired a for-profit company, Cyren Call, to be its adviser. The NPRM seeks comment on whether the PSST should have such an arrangement.