FCC seeks comment on public safety network

Six months after it began, the controversial "Cyren Call" proposal to establish a nationwide wireless broadband network for public safety is receiving federal attention.

In a public notice on Oct. 30, the Federal Communications Commission invited public comment on the Cyren Call proposal, with comments due by Nov. 29.

The plan was released in April by a start-up venture capital firm, Cyren Call Communications Corp. of McLean, Va., founded by Morgan O'Brien, a co-founder of Nextel Communications Inc. It has won support from about 15 public safety agencies including the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials and New York State Association of Police Chiefs.

It would set up the Public Safety Broadband Trust to hold the license for 30 Mz of the 700 Mz spectrum band. Under the plan, the trust is expected to lease the airwaves to commercial operators to build public safety broadband networks.

The Cyren Call proposal has become controversial because Congress previously had ordered the FCC to auction off the 30 Mz of spectrum for commercial use in January 2008, retaining the expected billions of dollars worth of proceeds for the U.S. Treasury.

Furthermore, Rep. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee, claims Cyren Call would disrupt the arrangement that Congress approved when it agreed to force broadcasters to give up 24 Mz worth of spectrum in the 700 Mz band and reserve it for public safety as part of the transition to high-definition television. That already-reserved 24 Mz is adjacent to the 30 Mz in Cyren Call's proposal.

However, some public safety groups consider the 24 Mz insufficient for their needs and are supporting Cyren Call's plan.

"Over the last six months, we have traveled around the country seeking support for the principles underlying our proposal from public safety, industry and government leaders," Cyren Call Chairman O'Brien said in a statement. "The next 30 days are the time for all of those leaders to formally tell the FCC what they've been saying publicly for months: A new solution is needed for public safety's communications challenges."

The FCC has not opened a proceeding to formally consider the Cyren Call proposal, but presumably that may happen if there is substantial public safety support.

Several other wireless companies, including Verizon Corp., also are floating plans for enhanced public safety communications.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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