Michigan police seek federal comment on 700 MHz proposal
The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police (MACP) yesterday announced approval of a resolution urging Congress and the FCC to allow public comment on the controversial 700 MHz public-private partnership proposed by Cyren Call Communications.
Led by Nextel Communications co-founder Morgan O’Brien, Cyren Call this spring proposed that half of the 60 MHz in the 700 MHz band scheduled to be auctioned in 2008 should be licensed in trust to public safety. The public-safety trust then would contract with commercial operators to build public-safety-grade networks nationwide that also could be used to offer enterprise services.
“All we’re asking for is that Congress and the FCC give them (Cyren Call officials) a chance to present their proposal at a federal level,” MACP Executive Director Tom Hendricksen said in an interview with MRT. “We’re looking for a conversation on it at the federal level, before they auction the spectrum.”
Michigan emergency responders realized the need for such a system last year when their radios were unable to operate on Louisiana systems in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hendricksen said.
“It’s certainly desirable,” he said. “There have been several instances in Michigan where the lack of interoperability was not just a problem but potentially could have cost some officers their lives.”
CTIA—the association that represents commercial wireless carriers that want to bid on the 700 MHz spectrum at auction—and influential Congressman Fred Upton (R- Mich.) immediately proclaimed their opposition to the Cyren Call proposal in the spring. But John Melcher, Cyren Call’s executive president of external affairs, characterized the opposing statements as “scare tactics” and noted that most officials have been more open-minded to the notion.
“We’ve really gotten some additional traction that will become apparent in the next two weeks,” Melcher said. “It’s very significant … not just from public safety but a cross section of people, including elected officials.”
Cyren Call asked the FCC to open a notice of inquiry on its proposal so public comments could be made on the issue, but company officials have acknowledged that commissioners would only open such a proceeding if key members of Congress bless the notion. Bruce Cox, Cyren Call’s vice president of government affairs, said Cyren Call officials want to see the FCC begin the inquiry by the end of the fall, given the fact that the spectrum is scheduled to be auctioned by early 2008.
“If we don’t have this debate, what an opportunity we will have missed to correct a problem for public safety,” Cox said.