Public Safety Group Backs Public-Private Wireless Net

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The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council--an organization which includes police chiefs, Red Cross staffers and state telecommunications officers-- asked the FCC to create a public-private emergency communications network along the lines of one proposed by Frontline Wireless.

In a letter to the FCC, the NPSTC conceded that a public-private partnership raised "novel regulatory issues," but said it was the only "realistic" alternative for delivering a "viable, affordable, self-sustaining" public safety network. The FCC is currently preparing rules for the auctioning of spectrum reclaimed in the switch to all-digital broadcasting,

The group wants build-out requirements for the network, but does not think there should be an "open access" requirement for the spectrum as Frontline has pitched.

Frontline would get bid for a 10 mHz swath of spectrum that would be combined with another 10 mHZ reserved for public safety into a national commercial network. Frontline would operate the network for commercial purposes, with the caveat that it would be turned over to public safety in times of emergency.

 Frontline has been pitching the proposal since early this year, led by former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt.

Last week, Hundt was using the roll out of the Apple iPhone and the mandatory five-year contract with AT&T as argument for the need for a nationwide wireless network to compete with it.

The FCC has to auction the spectrum by January 2008 per the direction of Congress, and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has said he wanted to release the rules for how the spectrum would be divvied up for bidding six months before that, which means they should come out in the next two or three weeks to meet that timetable.

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