FCC reverses course on Cyren Call

The Federal Communications Commission will not open an official proceeding on the Cyren Call public safety wireless communications plan, according to a Nov. 3 order signed by FCC Acting Public Safety and Homeland Security Chief Bureau Kenneth Moran.

The commission declined Cyren's request for a proceeding, stating that the plan is contrary to Congress' intent. The move comes just days after putting up the Cyren Call plan for public comment.

The controversial plan, advanced by Cyren Call Communications Corp. venture capital firm of McLean, Va., would establish a public trust to hold the license for a nationwide, wireless, broadband network for public safety, using 30 Mz band of the 700 Mz band. Cyren filed a petition with the FCC last April asking the commission to open a proceeding on the plan.

The Cyren Call proposal has been the subject of substantial controversy because Congress previously had ordered the FCC to auction off the 30 Mz of spectrum for commercial use in January 2008, expecting to generate billions of dollars for the Treasury. There also are complaints that Cyren Call would disrupt an arrangement approved by Congress whereby broadcasters will give up 24 Mz worth of spectrum in the 700 Mz band for public safety as part of the transition to high-definition television. That reserved 24 Mz is adjacent to the 30 Mz in Cyren Call's proposal.

"We conclude that Cyren Call's petition is inconsistent with ... (the) auction requirement," the FCC order stated. "In its petition, Cyren Call recognizes that the spectrum it seeks has been designated to be auctioned for commercial purposes and indicates that it 'has committed itself to pursuing legislative relief.' As such, the Commission has no authority to take further action on the request at this time, and will dismiss the petition without prejudice, leaving the docket open."

In a public notice Oct. 30, the FCC invited public comment. The proposal is being endorsed by more than a dozen public safety agencies, including police and fire departments and the International Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.

FCC still welcomes public comments on the plan until Nov. 29. Cyren Call officials said they are pursuing congressional and public safety support for their proposal.

Cyren Chairman Morgan O'Brien issued a news release Monday, blaming the wireless industry for opposing the proposal and calling for the public safety community to urge Congress to remove the impediments to the proposal.

"While the wireless industry might be able to get our proposal dismissed at FCC, no one can dismiss public safety's need for a solution," O'Brien said in the statement. "First responders around the country are sure to be upset about FCC's action, and I expect that that anger will strengthen their determination to submit comments on our proposal and to express their support to Congress."

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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