Public-safety representatives seek united 700 MHz front
Eight public-safety organizations plan to meet later this month to establish consensus regarding the future of the 700 MHz band for broadband applications for first-responder organizations, according to representatives of two participating organizations.
Last month, the Major Cities Chiefs (MCC) and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association (MCSA) hosted a meeting of eight public-safety groups, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO), National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) and Metro Fire Chiefs (MFC).
“The meeting we had on April 20 was very productive,” said Chris Moore, chairman of MCC’s spectrum working group and deputy chief of the San Jose Police Department. “It was an opportunity for the major public-safety organizations to sit at the same table and hear each other out.
“What we all heard was a desire to move forward in a unified front. Although there are some details that certainly have to be fleshed out, we hope to accomplish that at a subsequent meeting.”
Harlin McEwen, chairman of the IAFC’s technology committee, echoed this sentiment.
“We had a good meeting with the major cities,” McEwen said. “The general tone was very positive and very upbeat.”
As part of an agreement reached during the April meeting, Moore and McEwen both declined to address the specifics of the topics discussed.
McEwen also serves as chairman of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), which holds the nationwide license for 10 MHz of broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band. Last year, the FCC tried to auction the D Block — 10 MHz of spectrum adjacent to the PSST frequencies — to a commercial operator that would work with the PSST in a public-private partnership to build and operate a broadband wireless network for public safety. However, no operators made a qualifying bid.
Since the failed auction, the MCC expressed a desire to have the D Block earmarked for public-safety use, allowing local and regional entities to pursue their own network buildouts. While the methodology for building the networks could differ — for instance, some may build private networks, while others might opt for public-private partnerships with a commercial carriers — each would be built to specified interoperable standards.
Moore emphasized that the MCC wants to help develop a plan that can work for all public-safety entities, not just those in major metropolitan areas. During the April meeting, “it became clear that we didn’t necessarily disagree on a lot” and that developing a consensus position for public safety is possible, Moore said.
Establishing such consensus is important, if the first-responder community want federal policy-makers to take action, Moore said.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “It’s in all of public safety’s interest to move this along as expeditiously as possible and present a united front to the FCC and Congress.”