The National Telecommunications and Information
Administration has issued a notice
of inquiry seeking comment on how it should set up FirstNet, a nationwide,
interoperable public safety broadband network.
That comes just one business day after the FCC sought
comment on how it should structure the spectrum incentive auctions that will
pay for setting up and operating FirstNet.
The two newest FCC commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel and
Ajit Pai, have already provided some input on the dovetailing of those two
At the FCC's public meeting last week, Rosenworcel said:
"The auction revenues the Commission raises are designated to support the
first nationwide, interoperable, wireless broadband public safety network....
We cannot divorce the choices this agency makes in developing these auctions
from the broader purposes in this legislation and the public safety needs of
the American people."
As a top telecom advisor to the Senate Commerce Committee,
Rosenworcel worked on the language of legislation establishing the emergency
Pai raised a concern about raising the money to pay for the
network. He is concerned that the way the FCC is proposing the forward auction --
the one in which broadcast spectrum is sold to the highest, presumably
wireless, bidder -- does not guarantee it will cover anything beyond paying off
the broadcasters who offered up spectrum in the reverse auction and covering
administrative costs and reimbursements.
"This is essentially like ending a traditional auction
as soon as the reserve price is met," Pai said. "In other words, the NPRM
envisions an auction with no net revenues. This means no money for the First
Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to build out a nationwide, interoperable
public safety broadband network."
NTIA has given the public until Nov. 1 to weigh in on the
"conceptual architecture" of the network outlined in the first
FirstNet board of directors meeting Sept. 25, as well as on a business plan and
developing applications for public safety users. Comments can be e-mailed