The FCC on Thursday restarted plans for a nationwide, interoperable public safety network in the 700 MHz band for first responders, such as police, fire and emergency personnel.

The so-called "D Block" portion of spectrum did not meet its $1.3 billion price tag in an auction held in early 2008. The deal would've required the bidder to build out the public safety network in exchange for unfettered use of a portion of the D Block for commercial purposes. The FCC set a new minimum price tag of $750 million on Thursday in hopes of attracting investors.

The FCC proposed Thursday a set of modified rules to govern the proposed private-public network. Specifically, a competitive bidding process would be used "to determine whether, based on greatest population coverage and highest bids, the D Block spectrum would be licensed to a single licensee on a nationwide basis or to regional licensees on the basis of 58 public safety regions."

The D Block could be attractive to private business because its signals travel long distances and can penetrate walls. The spectrum will be freed up by television's mandatory switch to digital in February 2009.

"Let us be clear about what is at stake," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in a statement Thursday. Without the partnership, there are no other viable tools for the commission to ensure that this network can be built in a timely manner, with a maximum level of interoperability for use by all public safety entities small and large, rural and urban."


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