FCC Proposes Public Funding Of Emergency Communications Network

Genachowski says private sector will not fund public safety network on its own dime

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Thursday (Feb. 25) that the national broadband plan will propose government funding of an interoperable public safety communications network, and will propose giving first responders access to the entire 700 mHz band.

That came in a briefing outlining the plan's public safety elements.

He said the interoperable public safety network would cost between $12 billion-$16 billion over the next 10 years. The plan is due to Congress March 17.

The FCC, under then-chairman Kevin Martin, attempted to create that network via a public-private partnership, but was unable to attract a bidder willing to put up the minimum bid for the so-called D-block in the 700 mHz auction.

"The private sector simply is not going to build a nationwide, state-of-the-art, interoperable broadband network for public safety on its own dime," he said, according to an FCC summary of the briefing.

Genachowski wants the FCC to proceed with a re-auction of the D-block and not confine emergency communications to that block, but allow it to share the entire 700 mHz band via "roaming and priority access" arrangements.

The FCC cleared broadcasters, and wireless microphones, off that band for emergency communications and advanced wireless services.