Former Senator and 9/11 Commission member Slade Gorton says
the FCC should auction the D block rather that give it to public safety.
That is currently how the law reads, and the FCC backed that
option in its National Broadband Plan. But the Obama administration wants to
give the D block to public safety and pay for the network's creation and upkeep
with incentive auctions of broadcast spectrum.
According to Gorton's testimony for a Hill hearing on
spectrum April 12, a public-private partnership is still best way to go. The
FCC tried to auction the D block in 2008 to a private user who would create
such a partnership, but nobody met the minimum bid requirement.
The administration argues that fastest and best way to
finally get the network built some 10 years after 9/11 is not to auction it.
But Gorton argues that getting that money will be easier said than done.
"[A]t the present time, and for probably for at least
the next decade,: he says, "there is not the slightest chance of such a
large new federal program being funded, and that state and local governments,
almost all of which are equally constrained, will be unable to make such investments
on their own or even provide matching funds for a non-existent federal grant
Gorton is currently a consultant for a coalition, Connect
Public Safety Now, which includes T-Mobile and Sprint and advocates auctioning
the D block.
He says that auctioning the D block could help fund use of
the spectrum emergency responders already have allocated, and/or take advantage
of a commercial network buildout. He says a public-private partnership would
also foster "more robust" development of public safety equipment.
Some first responders have complained that their personal
iPhones are more advanced than their work-issued communications devices.
Gorton cites four principal arguments for auctioning the
spectrum: 1) Revenues will help reduce the deficit; 2) an auction will drive
private sector investment; jobs and better business communication; 3) there
will be less need for public funding, which he argues will be tough to come by;
and 4) whole industries, like e-commerce--will benefit from increased capacity.