Public-safety groups agree to seek 700 MHz D Block
Eight major public-safety groups met last week to develop consensus on several key items, including the desire to have Congress reallocate the D Block for public-safety broadband use; finding sustainable funding for the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST); and enabling local, regional and state entities to build out networks on the spectrum early.
Hosted by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the meeting in Alexandria, Va., included representatives from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCC), Major County Sheriffs’ Association (MCS), Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (MFCA), National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) and the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA).
“We did get down to brass tacks and addressed the issues,” APCO Executive Director George Rice said. “I think it went quite well.”
The group met in April but declined to reveal any details of the discussions. This time, the group acknowledged that it “substantially agreed” to four key points, the most notable being that it would ask Congress to reallocate the 10 MHz D Block to public safety.
Currently, the D Block would be auctioned to a commercial operator. Under current FCC rules, the D Block winner would forge a public-private partnership with the PSST — the nationwide licensee of public safety’s 10 MHz of broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band — to build a wireless broadband network for public-safety use, but no commercial operator submitted a qualifying bid under that scenario.
Under yesterday’s proposal, Congress would grant the D Block to public safety, meaning public safety would have 20 MHz of broadband spectrum on which to build a network.
“It’s not fully decided, but the sense is that [the D Block] would still go to the licensee [PSST],” Rice said.
In addition, the group expressed consensus that a sustainable funding program is needed for the PSST, which currently has no source of revenue to support its operations.
Another point of consensus at the meeting was that local, state and regional entities should have the opportunity to build broadband networks on the 700 MHz public-safety spectrum, as long as the networks are built to national standards. Those standards have not yet been established, and doing so is one of the group’s priorities and biggest challenges, Rice said.
PSST Chairman Harlin McEwen said attendees at the meeting discussed the notion of establishing a “sub-license” procedure that would grant local entities most rights of a normal licensees, if they adhered to national standards and conditions.
“There are a lot of details that need to be worked out, but there is definitely growing consensus,” McEwen said.
While the details of network standards have not been completed, the group did agree on “general approaches regarding levels of service, roaming access, licensing and technical requirements,” according to a press release generated by the public-safety group.
Rice said the group has not yet scheduled another face-to-face meeting, but participants will communicate during the interim.