Keep the faith
Certainly, the public safety community is worried whether the proposed nationwide 700 MHz broadband network ever will be built and for good reason, as Senior Writer Donny Jackson reports in this edition’s cover story starting on page 82. Indeed, many believe it never will happen.
Vital questions abound concerning the project, including: Will the FCC’s asking price for the spectrum be met; if not, will the commission alter its rules for the airwaves should it reauction the spectrum; will public safety’s licensee be able to negotiate a deal with the spectrum winner — should one emerge — that the FCC will accept; will the commercial operator encounter unexpected difficulties along the way that will cause it to abandon the project before the build-out is complete; will enough public safety users emerge to generate enough revenue to operate and maintain the network. And so on.
I think it’s going to get done. Why? History tells me so.
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy told Congress that he wanted America to land one of its citizens on the moon within a decade. The Cold War was in full bloom, the Soviet Union had a huge advantage in the space race and America needed a psychological boost.
Despite the proposed $40 billion cost — which translates to $277 billion in today’s dollars — and the fact that a Gallup Poll at the time indicated 58% of Americans were against the idea, Congress four months later appropriated the first $1.7 billion for the project.
Two years later, however, doubts about the project already had started to emerge. According to The New York Times at the time, concerns were growing that the engineering and technology challenges faced by the manned Apollo mission would far exceed those of the unmanned Ranger program. Also, some were beginning to question the wisdom of spending so much money for scientific exploration when more and more Americans were going hungry and having difficulty finding work. There also was discussion of tax cuts that, if executed, could have put space funding in jeopardy. As a result, Congress was wondering what it had gotten itself into.
Of course, we know how this story turned out: the astronaut Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for mankind in 1969, two years before President Kennedy’s ambitious goal. America lives by the credo of “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” The 700 MHz network is going to get built, and it’s going to be used. When that occurs, public safety communications will have taken a giant leap forward.