O’Brien makes 700 MHz public-private partnership pitch
LAS VEGAS–Public safety should look to a public-private partnership model to fund the construction and maintenance of a nationwide broadband network, Cyren Call Chairman Morgan O’Brien–co-founder of Nextel Communications–said today in his opening IWCE keynote address.
Last month, Cyren Call filed with the FCC a proposal to reallocate 30 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum that would be licensed to a public-safety trust, which then would lease the valuable airwaves to commercial operators, which in turn would build interoperable, public-safety-grade broadband networks. Public-safety entities would have priority on the systems–augmented by satellite for redundancy and coverage purposes–but the operators could garner additional revenues by selling services utilizing the anticipated considerable excess network capacity.
Leveraging the commercial sector is necessary to bring economies of scale to the public-safety industry and because taxpayer-funded proposals will not be supported politically, O’Brien said.
“[Taxpayer funding] is a well that has run dry … it’s not going to happen,” O’Brien said, noting that it is time for public safety to abandon the “rich-uncle delusion” that necessary public funding will be available.
In addition to enabling the buildout of the public-safety-grade network, the public-private partnership model would fund upgrades to keep the system technologically “evergreen” instead of becoming obsolete as many private, proprietary public-safety systems do today.
O’Brien stressed that the proposed 700 MHz system would not mean that public-safety entities would discard their existing systems—a notion that is crucial to public safety, said Harlin McEwen, chairman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police communications and technology committee.
“We’re not ready to give up our mission-critical, land mobile radio systems for voice,” said McEwen, who described the proposed network as an “additional, augmentative type of system.”
Steve Devine, patrol frequency coordinator for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, echoed this opinion, noting that the proposal is more attractive to public safety if entities are allowed to “get their feet wet” by first utilizing the data aspects of a 700 MHz system.
Both McEwen and Devine expressed support for the Cyren Call proposal being debated on the record in an FCC proceeding, as O’Brien has asked. It’s a proceeding that needs to begin soon, before Congress is unable to change its recent decision to auction the 30 MHz of spectrum, said Alan Tilles, who represents many public-safety entities as partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker.
“This band represents potentially the last opportunity to get this right,” Tilles said.
O’Brien said he and other Cyren Call personnel will be traveling throughout the country to present the company’s proposal to state and local officials to gather support for the venture’s “call to action” for the 700 MHz proposal.