FCC Establishes Auction Orders to Benefit Public Safety Agencies

After 15 months, the FCC has voted in favor of allowing the public safety agencies additional areas on the 700 MHz radio spectrum to allow for easier interoperability.

On Tuesday July 31, 2007, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a monumental decision and voted in favor of setting aside additional 700 MHz radio spectrum for a public safety broadband network.

The following is an excerpt from the July 31, 2007 FCC Press Release:

"In a Second Report & Order adopted today, the Federal Communications Commission revised the 700 MHz band plan and service rules to promote the creation of a nationwide interoperable broadband network for public safety and to facilitate the availability of new and innovative wireless broadband services for consumers."

"Today's Order establishes a framework for a 700 MHz Public Safety/Private Partnership between the licensee for one of the commercial spectrum blocks and the licensee for the public safety broadband spectrum. As part of the Partnership, the commercial licensee will build out a nationwide, interoperable broadband network for the use of public safety. This network will facilitate effective communications among first responders not just in emergencies, but as part of cooperative communications plans that will enable first responders from different disciplines, such as police and fire departments, and jurisdictions to work together in emergency preparedness and response. Under the Partnership, the Public Safety Broadband Licensee will have priority access to the commercial spectrum in times of emergency, and the commercial will be preemptable, secondary access to the public safety broadband spectrum."

To access the full FCC press release, click here.

The following excerpts are from FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's comments:

Chairman Kevin J. Martin
Click here to view his full his statement.

"With this Second Report and Order, the Commission takes an historic step towards two goals that have been priorities of mine as Chairman: (1) creating a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network and (2) furthering pro-competition broadband policies designed to increase penetration and ensure that consumers benefit from innovation and technological advancements.

First and foremost, we have no greater responsibility than meeting the needs of public safety. And I appreciate the presence of so many representatives of the public safety community here today. During a crisis, public safety officials need to be able to communicate with one another. We are all aware of problems that have been created by the lack of interoperability for public safety communications during recent crises like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Emergencies - natural or man-made - do not make distinctions among emergency responders. It is imperative that the Commission recognize these challenges and provide a communications solution for our Nation's first responders that is available to everyone, regardless of the uniform they wear or the towns in which they live and work.

The public safety/private partnership we adopt today will ensure that public safety keeps pace with the advances in communications and gives first responders the broadband communications capabilities they need to protect safety of life and property of the American public. It has been almost six years since brave police and fire fighters ran into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon without an effective emergency communications system. We should not make these brave men and women wait any longer.

While I also would have supported a network exclusively for the use of public safety, the simple reality is that there currently is no way to fund such an enterprise. The use of a public safety/private partnership, however, creates an opportunity to provide state-of-the-art technologies to our Nation's first responders in a timely and affordable manner. Many national and local public safety organizations have expressed support for a public/private partnership approach as their last, best chance to make this network a reality. We cannot afford to let the opportunity that the 700 MHz band offers for public safety pass us by.

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