A public notice seeking input on the feasibility of giving public safety the option to use 700 MHz narrowband spectrum for broadband uses is expected to be released in the near future, an FCC attorney said yesterday during a National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) meeting.

Jeff Cohen, senior legal counsel for the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau, yesterday said the bureau — not the commission — could release the public notice as early as today. FCC spokesman Rob Kenny said the public notice will not be released today but should be available “in the near future.”

In his presentation to NPSTC, Cohen emphasized that public notice should not be viewed as a indication that the FCC is prepared to take action on a proposal to allow broadband use on public-safety narrowband spectrum. Instead, the public notice is designed to “start the dialog and seek comment on the technical and operational feasibility of allowing such flexibility,” he said.

However, with the 700 MHz narrowband frequencies being the spectral home to billions of dollars worth of mission-critical systems that have either been deployed in recent years or are in the process of being built, the notion of introducing broadband use clearly made several NPSTC attendees uncomfortable.

“I’m sitting here quaking in my boots,” said Tom Sorley, who is overseeing the buildout of a $100 million system for the city of Houston. “There’s many agencies like mine across the country that are making significant investments — ours is the largest IT project the city has ever done — and it’s all hinged on the 700 MHz [narrowband] frequencies. I understand that you’re just asking questions, but your questions are scaring me to death.”

Greg Holcomb, an official with the state of Florida, echoed this sentiment.

“I don’t believe you’re going to hear a lot of good comments come from the public-safety arena, based on this,” Holcomb said. “Folks that have major investments out there … don’t have the ability to go to other spectrum to meet the needs of our communities. A movement that would allow our neighbors to impede on the 700 [MHz narrowband spectrum] would be devastating to some of the systems we’ve put major investments in.”

Cohen, who noted that “public-safety narrowband is important today and will be around a long time,” asked all NPSTC attendees to reserve judgment about the public notice until it is released, so they can read the questions and the context in which they are framed.

“I know you’re anxious,” Cohen said. “Wait and read the [public notice] when it comes out, and then we can have further dialog. The bureau is very aware of all of the concerns that you’re raising.”