The Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) — the nationwide licensee for public-safety broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band — will work with other groups in an effort to help forge a consensus within the first-responder community about the best use of the 700 MHz frequencies, according to PSST Chairman Harlin McEwen.
In the past, representatives of major cities such as New York, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle have expressed concern about a lack of outreach to their agencies for input into the PSST, which has been pursuing a public-private partnership model to deliver wireless broadband services to first responders. These major-city representatives want the 700 MHz spectrum to be licensed on a local or regional basis, instead of being held by a national licensee.
During a quarterly meeting conducted last week, PSST board members directed McEwen to "reach out" to major-cities representatives and "work with them as much as possible to see if we can't come to a greater consensus," McEwen said during an interview with Urgent Communications.
"We will continue to try to come to some common ground, so that the public-safety community is as unified as possible," he said.
Charles Dowd, deputy chief for the New York Police Department and a leader of the major-cities group, echoed the need for public safety to reach a consensus on the 700 MHz broadband issue but questioned the PSST's future role.
"I don't know if the PSST — as it's currently constituted — does have a role; that's something that's still up in the air," Dowd said. "But certainly people like Harlin and other people who are represented in the PSST clearly need to be involved in coming to this public-safety solution. It's not like you just want to toss everybody aside who is involved in the PSST — absolutely not. A lot of those people are going to have to be involved to come up with a legitimate public-safety solution, and Harlin would be a part of that."
Meanwhile, McEwen said the public-private partnership notion is still alive, noting that "there's still a lot of people saying that they're interested in bidding." Most of these operators have asked the PSST to protect their anonymity, but at least one regional carrier — U.S. Cellular — has publicly acknowledged its interest in a public-private partnership if it can build out the network on a regional basis, not a national basis as was proposed during last year's failed D Block auction.
Another big issue for the PSST is funding. To date, the organization's only funding has come from loans from former adviser Cyren Call Communications. With the money from those loans dwindling and the PSST-Cyren Call relationship being terminated, the PSST is seeking a new funding source.
"We're looking at options," McEwen said. "We still don't have anything firm, be we've had some suggestions of things we might want to look at, one of them being the stimulus options. That is something we're pursuing now, but I don't have any answers yet."
McEwen said the PSST would not apply for a stimulus grant simply to fund the organization's operational expenses but to "further the cause of implementing a national system."
"I don't think the money is intended to support a corporation like ours," he said. "But, if we were to apply for a project, there would be money to fund our operations in support of a project."