Public safety officials and chief information officers (CIOs) from many of the largest cities and counties in the US, as part of the Digital Communities 700Mhz CIO working group initiative, have banded together to protest the FCC's new proposed rules for the 700MHz D-Block auction.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, they argue that the FCC plan to pair the public safety spectrum with the commercially auctioned "D-Block" of spectrum to create a nationwide network is critically flawed. This "will fall far short of satisfying a once in a life time opportunity to fix the weaknesses in the core structure of public safety spectrum," they wrote.

The officials are asking Martin to stop plans to auction the D-Block and return the public safety spectrum to those charged with protecting the safety of our constituents.

"We do not believe that the current plans to auction the D-Block will in any way be a solution to the public safety wireless broadband needs in our communities," they wrote. "In sharing the spectrum that was allocated to public safety with the proposed D-block bidders in a manner that is heavily weighted against public safety, and by reducing the auction reserve from $1.3 billion to $750 million while also lowering the performance/coverage requirements of the system, you are designing a system that fails to serve the critical performance needs of public safety."

Additionally, they do not feel that local public safety agencies should be charged a usage fee for spectrum that is already assigned for public safety usage. Nor do they believe that control of the public safety broadband spectrum should be turned over to an organization conflicted by private sector ownership. "First responders need to be in control of their communications particularly at the time of an emergency," they argue.

Additionally, they call the 15 year timeline unacceptable.

The group is urging that the FCC begin talks directly with the large public safety agencies as a group so that standards can be set to make this solution work as a national interoperable platform.

The full text of the letter follows:

October 29, 2008

Hon. Kevin J. Martin

Chairman

Federal Communications Committee

445 12th Street, SW Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Martin:

As public safety officials and chief information officers who represent the largest cities and counties in this country and on behalf of the people living, visiting and working in these jurisdictions, whose safety we have been charged to protect, we respectfully wish to provide you with advance notice that collectively we find the proposed rules for the D-Block auction to be unworkable for large municipalities. Furthermore, we believe the FCC plan to pair the public safety spectrum with the commercially auctioned "D-Block" of spectrum to create a nationwide network is critically flawed and will fall far short of satisfying a once in a life time opportunity to fix the weaknesses in the core structure of public safety spectrum. Therefore, we ask that you stop plans to auction the D-Block and return the public safety spectrum to those charged with protecting the safety of our constituents. Our reasons for this request are four-fold:

1. We do not believe that the current plans to auction the D-Block will in any way be a solution to the public safety wireless broadband needs in our communities. In sharing the spectrum that was allocated to public safety with the proposed D-block bidders in a manner that is heavily weighted against public safety, and by reducing the auction reserve from $1.3 billion to $750 million while also lowering the performance/coverage requirements of the system, you are designing a system that fails to serve the critical performance needs of public safety. It is arguable that the new proposed rules so diminish what public safety would receive

Blake Harris  |  Contributing Editor