The Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) wants President-elect Barrack Obama to make a proposed shared interoperable emergency communications network part of his proposed economic stimulus plan, arguing it could create millions of jobs, upgrade emergency communications, and provide the broadband link to underserved communities nationwide that Obama is seeking.
The PSST was picked by the FCC to be the licensee of a 10 mhz swatch of spectrum the FCC set aside for emergency communications as part of its 700 mhz spectrum auction earlier this year. It was to have been paired with a 10 mhz block of commercial spectrum in a public-private partnership, but nobody bid the minimum price for the commercial block and the FCC is now trying to figure out how to attract a bidder when it re-auctions the spectrum next year. The proposal is that all the spectrum, including the 10 mhz allocated to PSST, would be used for commercial purposes, but all of it would be given over to emergency communications in times of natural or man-made disaster.
Improving emergency communications has been on the government agenda since 9/11.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has pushed the partnership idea achieved through a spectrum auction, but also said that the better option would instead be for the government to step up and fund the network.
In a letter to Obama, Harline McEwen, chairman of the trust, suggested setting aside an "extremely modest" $15 billion from the stimulus package--which could approach a trillion dollars--to fund the commercial build-out of a national broadband network to 99.3 percent of the population. The commercial entity would then shoulder the ongoing costs of operating the network.
In outlining his stimulus package, Obama said that that ubiquitous broadband was one of the keys to economic recovery. The public/private partnership, with the public safety requirement of building out to over 99% of the population, could essentially achieve that goal McEwan suggested, while stimulating jobs in the process. "Building a nationwide wireless broadband network would provide economic and public safety benefits comparable to the economic and national defense benefits that building the Interstate Highway System brought to our country 50 years ago."
Citing Department of Commerce and Brookings Institute models, McEwen wrote: "[A] $5 billion increase in broadband investment directly creates 100,000 new jobs in telecom and IT in the year in which spending occurs and will result in 2.4 million jobs throughout the economy if targeted successfully to increase broadband penetration. Such job growth could significantly help you reach your goal of saving or creating 2.5 million jobs in the next two years."
"I support wholeheartedly the request made by the Chairman of the PSST that $15 billion of economic stimulus be made available to one or more private partners to construct a next-generation public safety broadband network, " said Morgan O'Brien, chairman of Cyren Call. "For years the lack of public funding has stymied the development of such a network."
That comes as no surprise, O'Brien's company is the one that proposed a public-private partnership.