FCC invites comments on Cyren Call
Cyren Call Communications’ plan calling for a public-private partnership to establish and operate a nationwide broadband network will be the subject of a 30-day comment period, the FCC announced late yesterday.
In the spring, Cyren Call proposed that 30 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum—currently scheduled to be auctioned for commercial uses in January 2008—be given to a public-safety trust that would lease the airwaves to commercial operators. The operators would build public-safety-grade broadband networks that would be used to offer public-safety and commercial communications services.
Cyren Call asked the FCC to open a proceeding to solicit public comment on its proposal—a notion that has been supported by multiple public-safety groups. However, Cyren Call officials have acknowledged that the FCC realistically could not open a rulemaking proceeding that considered a proposal that was contrary to the Congressional directive to auction the spectrum.
The notice released yesterday by the FCC Reference Information Center does not initiate a rulemaking proceeding—or prejudge any future action by the commission on the subject, according to an FCC spokesman—but does seek public comments, which are due by Nov. 29.
“It’s important to create a solid public record on the need for a public-safety broadband network,” Bruce Cox, Cyren Call’s vice president for governmental relations, said in an interview with MRT. “The FCC proceeding creates the ability to start developing a public record.”
Cyren Call Chairman Morgan O’Brien echoed this sentiment.
“Over the last six months, we have traveled around the country seeking support for the principles underlying our proposal from public safety, industry and government leaders,” O’Brien said in a statement. “The next 30 days are the time for all of those leaders to formally tell the FCC what they’ve been saying publicly for months: a new solution is needed for public safety’s communications challenges.”
Cox said the public-comment period is a “first step” in making the Cyren Call proposal a reality. In addition to encouraging public comment, Cyren Call is working with public-safety officials on draft legislation that would create the public-safety broadband trust as a government-chartered corporation that could access low-interest capital. A major part of the Cyren Call plan would have the trust pay the government $5 billion—the estimated proceeds from an auction of the 700 MHz spectrum at issue—to avoid any negative budgetary impacts.
“Eventually, there will need to be an FCC rulemaking, but Congress has to change the law so the FCC has the ability to do what we’re seeking,” he said. “Right now, the law requires the FCC to auction this off for commercial purposes.”
Tom Ridge, the nation’s first secretary of Homeland Security, expressed support for the FCC’s public notice.
“First responders know there is an urgent need to fix our communications problems, and they are interested in innovative new approaches like the Cyren Call plan,” Ridge said in a statement. “The events of September 11, 2001, were a tragic exclamation point on a need that has existed within the public-safety community for decades. This announcement is a very important step that I hope results in the creation of a national communications system for those who put their lives on the line every day.”