PSST, Cyren Call part ways
Cyren Call Communications and the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) today jointly announced that the entities would end their controversial advisory relationship less than 18 months after it began, citing funding issues and regulatory uncertainty surrounding plans to build a 700 MHz broadband network for public safety.
Since becoming the nationwide licensee for public safety’s 10 MHz of broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band in the fall of 2007, PSST has been advised by Cyren Call, which is chaired by Nextel Communications co-founder Morgan O’Brien. In addition, Cyren Call has loaned the PSST $6 million—most of which has been used to pay Cyren Call for its services—which proved to be the only funding source for the PSST and a lightning rod of criticism from Capitol Hill.
It was not supposed be this way. Under an FCC order approved in 2007, the PSST spectrum would have been paired with the adjacent D Block frequencies to provide the spectral foundation for a public-private network that could be used by first-responder agencies—and the agreement between the D Block winner and the PSST would ensure that the PSST had an ongoing funding source.
When the D Block auction yielded no qualified bidder, that auction model was immediately questioned. Former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin pushed for another D Block auction with relaxed network requirements and a different structure, but that proposal was never voted on by the FCC.
With the transition to a new presidential administration and significant changes in leadership on Capitol Hill, there is no timetable for the public-private partnership model—or any other public-safety broadband concept—to be revisited, according to Beltway sources.
“As we stand here today, there is no way of knowing when—or along what path—the process will move forward,” O’Brien said in a prepared statement. “It is realities and considerations like these that have led us to the decision we’ve announced today.”
During an interview with Urgent Communications, Cyren Call spokesman Tim O’Regan echoed this sentiment, while noting that Cyren Call has “absolutely” no acrimony toward the PSST.
“It’s the uncertainty … When you add [the various issues] up together, they all equal continuing uncertainty,” O’Regan said. “It’s a situation that wouldn’t allow us to continue forward as the advisor to the PSST.”
Given this uncertainty and the poor condition of the financial markets, PSST Chairman Harlin McEwen said Cyren Call was unable to secure funding for any further loans to the PSST. Of the original loan amount, McEwen said “there’s very little of that left.” The PSST board will meet at the end of this month to determine the organization’s next step.
O’Regan said Cyren Call believes the public-private partnership concept is still a “viable model” and that Cyren Call will continue to monitor the public-safety broadband debate
“At a minimum, from the sidelines, we’ll continue to be interested in what happens,” O’Regan said.
When asked whether Cyren Call would be willing to bid on the D Block, O’Regan said there is “too much uncertainty” to speculate on such a hypothetical scenario. As for the near-term future of the company, O’Regan said “our nation is streaming ahead to a wireless broadband future, and Cyren Call is exploring all market opportunities.”