FCC Proposal Aimed at Securing Public Safety Spectrum Bid

By Stephanie Berrong

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday proposed changing the rules governing the auction of a piece of wireless spectrum that would help first responders communicate with each other in emergencies.

In an attempt to auction the so-called “d-block” spectrum, which did not meet its $1.3 billion reserve price at an auction in March, the FCC approved a draft proposal to lower the minimum opening bid to $750 million.

The spectrum is being reallocated from analog broadcasters as part of the digital television transition to be completed in 2009. 

As originally planned, the 10-MHz spectrum would be paired with an additional 10 MHz controlled by the Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corp. (PSST), which is made up of major public safety groups.

The new proposal would allow the spectrum to be sold to a single, nationwide licensee or in 58 regional pieces.

 IT World reports that Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein expressed doubts about the new plan.

The proposed $750 million minimum bid is not based on "solid economic or technical" analysis of the value of the spectrum, or on the cost to bidders for building the network, Adelstein added.

"We are offering for sale a valuable asset, but not one of unlimited value," he said. "And we are expecting major investments to be made by private enterprise to meet the needs of public safety. Despite these hurdles, we have not undertaken to assess whether the costs we are asking the private sector to bear have any relationship to the returns it can expect."

The commercial winner would be required to build out a national wireless broadband network, for which public safety members would pay a usage fee. Public safety users would receive priority on the commercial network during certain times of emergency.

The proposal is up for public comment for 30 days. A final vote by commissioners is necessary for approval.

For more background, see the April 2008 print issue of Security Management, which features an "Intelligence" item regarding the initial FCC spectrum auction.


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