Public-safety coalition blasts FCC report on D Block

A coalition of public-safety groups lambasted a recent FCC report that concluded the groups already have enough spectrum and do not need to have the D Block of the 700 MHz band allocated directly to them.

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 PSA issued a white paper that blasted the FCC's June report, which said the 10 MHz of spectrum the public-safety community currently has is sufficient to meet their needs.

Specifically, the PSA questioned the accuracy of the FCC report, and said it is "built on a foundation of assumptions and conjecture." The coalition said the FCC report "greatly" underestimated the current and future capacity needs of first responders, and said the commission did not seek out "meaningful input" from the public-safety community.

"Public safety has repeatedly argued that the additional 10 megahertz of paired spectrum that would be gained through a D-Block allocation is necessary to ensure reliable operation of the public-safety broadband network in the long term," according to the PSA white paper.

The coalition's position is backed by AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ), both of which are building LTE networks in the 700 MHz band.

The FCC has repeatedly stated that an auction of the D Block to a commercial licensee, which failed in 2008, will greatly reduce the cost of building out the nationwide network. Smaller carriers like T-Mobile USA--which does not own 700 MHz spectrum--support the FCC's plan. In a statement, Jamie Barnett, chief of the FCC's public-safety bureau, noted the FCC's plan moves the nationwide network from "talk to reality."

"Following months of study and extensive consultation with public-safety groups and others, the national broadband plan puts forward a realistic, cost-effective proposal for achieving this long overdue goal," he said. "Our concern is that other proposals will cost more than $35 billion and therefore will never be built or will leave out rural and suburban communities instead of providing a truly comprehensive nationwide network for America's first responders."

For more:
- see this National Journal article
- see this The Hill article

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