After a proposed public-private partnership for a nationwide public-safety network failed to attract a qualifying bid in the recent 700 MHz auction, the FCC yesterday unanimously adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks ideas for a reauction of the 10 MHz D Block.

FCC commissioners reiterated their desire for a public-private partnership that would provide first responders with a nationwide broadband network. Although most commissioners would prefer that the federal government fund such a network, budgetary and political realities mean that a public-private venture “represents the last best hope we have” for a nationwide network being built for public safety, Commissioner Michael Copps said.

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein echoed this sentiment, citing a need for a more detail in the FCC’s rules, because several carriers—including expected bidder Frontline Wireless, which pulled out of the auction three weeks before it began—cited financial uncertainty as a key reason for not bidding. “It is important that we get the specifics nailed down as clearly as possible this time around, since it may be our last shot,” Adelstein said.

Indeed, the next set of D Block rules almost certainly will be the last for this commission, the makeup of which is expected to change after this year’s presidential election.

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.

During a House subcommittee hearing, several members of Congress 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.

Previously, PSST officials have expressed a desire for the FCC to lower the $1.3 billion reserve price on the D Block and remove the financial penalties that would have been levied if the D Block winner did not reach a network-sharing agreement with the PSST.

In a prepared statement, PSST Chairman Harlin McEwen commended the commission for its action, expressing hope that the comment period “will result in rules bringing about the right partner to build a shared public safety/commercial network.”