Virginia Fire Chiefs ask for Cyren Call proceeding
Public-safety support for the notion of a nationwide, public-safety-grade, broadband network utilizing 700 MHz spectrum that would be built by commercial operators continued this week with the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association (VFCA) asking the FCC to open a proceeding to consider such a proposal.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin dated Aug. 29 but released yesterday, the VFCA described the 24 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum already earmarked for public-safety use as “insufficient” and requested that the commission open a proceeding to consider a proposal from Cyren Call Communications.
“Based on the tenuous state of our nation’s public-safety communications systems, a discussion of this nature is long overdue,” according to the VCFA letter.
Led by Nextel Communications co-founder Morgan O’Brien, Cyren Call has proposed that a public-safety broadband trust receive the license for half of the 60 MHz of 700 MHz airwaves scheduled to be auctioned by early 2008. The trust would lease the spectrum to commercial operators, which would build public-safety grade networks that also could be used for commercial endeavors.
VFCA representative Charles Werner said the organization has been considering taking such a position for a couple of months—long before the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) expressed support for a public-private network at 700 MHz earlier this month. While the VFCA is the first statewide fire organization to express support for the notion, Werner feels certain it will not be the last.
“I know that there are others in the works,” he said, noting three other state fire organizations that are considering similar measures. “There’s a wave of things that are starting to happen.”
And the proposal already has gathered significant momentum in the public-safety community. In addition to APCO and VFCA, the National Emergency Number Association and several statewide police chiefs associations have expressed support for a FCC proceeding on the Cyren Call proposal.
“This is another indicator that the broad public safety community—including police, fire and emergency officials from across the country—see the need for a completely new approach to public safety communications,” Bruce Cox, Cyren Call’s vice president of government relations, said today in a prepared statement. “We are grateful that fire chiefs in Virginia are joining with APCO, NENA, and a growing number of statewide organizations to say it’s high time for this debate to happen.”
Many observers following the Cyren Call proposal questioned whether it was politically viable, given the fact that Congress already had budgeted $5 billion in auction proceeds expected from the auction of the 30 MHz of spectrum. However, O’Brien unveiled a plan that would have the trust pay the government $5 billion up front—to be recovered via leasing fees—to alleviate budget concerns.
Under such circumstances and with the urging of public safety, Congress may be willing to reconsider its auction plans and tell FCC commissioners it is OK to conduct a proceeding on the matter, according to some Beltway sources.