New year’s resolution?
D Block, D Block, D Block. Is there anything going on other than the D Block? It's needed for public safety. It isn't needed for public safety. OK, it's needed for public safety, but how is public safety going to pay for it? Auction this, auction that. Don't auction this, don't auction that. It's enough to make your head hurt.
We've been arguing over this for so many years now. Somewhere, Morgan O'Brien is laughing. The rest of us are crying.
Unfortunately, we're now at the point where public-safety folks are pointing negative fingers at each other. In other words, if you think that the D Block should be auctioned, you're anti-public safety. Whatever the right answer is, I think that it's a mistake to paint with such a broad stroke. It's a mistake because I've heard the "no D Block" position echoed by some current public-safety people who operate systems.
Taking that position doesn't make them bad people. Rather, taking that position makes them pragmatic people — or so they believe. Their stance is that public safety isn't going to get the D Block, or won't get it with funding. And if there's no funding to build the broadband network that would utilize that spectrum, they believe that the more prudent approach would be to concentrate on getting some funding — any funding — and building what they can.
Now, whether this position is more pragmatic, more realistic, or more naïve is irrelevant. What is important is that this position (as well as that of the FCC) must be considered and discussed as more than just being anti-public safety. Regardless of whether you stand with them, they are not alone in their thinking.
On the other hand, Congress has taken too long to resolve this issue. By the time they get around to acting, LTE might be very old technology. The bottom line is that Congress needs to settle the debate. Unfortunately, there is very little that is easy in Congress these days. If they can't even get around to dealing with the medical issues of the 9/11 first responders — an immediate need — it's hard to believe that the D Block will be decided anytime soon. But, the effort to make a decision happen must continue.
The urgency of a decision is very real. As systems in the current public-safety portion of the band are built, it makes planning and design harder and harder if you don't know how much spectrum you'll be able to use, when you'll have access to it, and where the funding is coming from. Carriers must make similar plans for their networks. In this particular case, delay helps no one. It is crucial that the issue be brought to a head, discussed and resolved as soon as possible.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.
Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio and Internet industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker and can be reached at [email protected].