Public-safety groups step up D-Block lobbying

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A coalition of public-safety groups has ratcheted up its lobbying efforts to get the D Block of the 700 MHz band allocated directly to public safety instead of being auctioned off, as the FCC is planning to do.

The coalition, formally called Public Safety Alliance, is a project of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, but also includes the National Sheriffs' Association and the Major Cities Chiefs Association. The group is opening up a $500,000 advertising campaign aimed at persuading Congress to give the 10 MHz of D-Block spectrum to the public-safety community, a position that is backed by AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ), both of which are building LTE networks in the 700 MHz band. Indeed, an Alliance spokeswoman told the Washington Post the group relies on funding from corporate sponsors including Verizon and AT&T.

"There clearly needs to be additional work on educating people in Washington, D.C., on the issue," APCO President Richard Mirgon told Urgent Communications.

Meanwhile, the FCC continues to argue that first responders have enough spectrum, and that auctioning off the D Block to a commercial licensee will be the most cost-effective way to build out a nationwide, interoperable broadband network for the public-safety community. Additionally, the FCC has argued that the $6.5 billion cost of building the network could balloon to more than $16 billion without a commercial partner; the FCC plans to auction the spectrum next year. Smaller carriers, including T-Mobile USA, support the FCC's plan.

"The clock is ticking, others are already deploying the latest in wireless technology," Jamie Barnett, chief of the FCC's public safety bureau, told the Washington Post. "What we're focused on is making sure public safety has a choice of partners, opportunities for consumer-priced devices and to make it all interoperable."

For more:
- see this Washington Post article
- see this Urgent Communications article

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