New US spectrum sale should fund public safety net

US Republicans on a congressional panel said the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should re-auction a block of public airwaves to the highest bidder and give the proceeds to public safety professionals to build a national emergency comms network.

An Associated Press report said the idea was raised as the US House Energy and Commerce sub-committee on telecoms and the Internet. The sub-committee heard testimony about why a plan to use public spectrum and private money to create a national emergency comms network failed to attract any interest at the auction, which raised a record-breaking US$19.1 billion (€12 billion)

Republican Joe Barton of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Republican Cliff Stearns, ranking member of the sub-committee, both suggested the solution as an alternative to the current plan.

The FCC approved the emergency comms plan last summer, agreeing to reserve about one-sixth of the spectrum available for auction. The so-called 'D block' would have been combined with a roughly equal portion of spectrum controlled by a public safety trust to create a shared network. However, the block failed to attract a bidder.