FCC seeks comments on Frontline spectrum plan

The Federal Communications Commission invited public comments this week on a proposal advanced by Frontline Wireless LLC to set aside a 22 MHz block of radio spectrum for a wireless broadband network for first responders. Comments are due by May 23.

In a notice published on May 2, the commission said it is seeking comment on Greensboro, N.C.-based Frontline's proposal and other details related to the allocation of spectrum in the 700 MHz band in an upcoming auction to be held on or before Jan. 28, 2008. The spectrum previously was allocated to television broadcasters but is being auctioned off and a portion reallocated to public safety as part of the transition to digital television. Comments are due by May 23.

Under plans previously approved by Congress, 60 MHz of spectrum will be auctioned off, and 24 MHz has been allocated for first responders. The FCC proposed in December 2006 that 12 MHz of the public safety spectrum should be dedicated to a nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders to enable easier exchange of data and digital communications. However, several public safety groups said 12 Mhz is not enough spectrum to meet their current and future needs.

Frontline's plan is that the FCC would auction off a license for a block of 10 additional MHz of spectrum, adjacent to the public safety band, with a requirement that the buyer build out a broadband network and make it available on a priority basis to first responders. During periods of low usage, however, the spectrum would be available to commercial carriers.

An earlier proposal, known as Cyren Call, advanced by start-up firm Cyren Call Communications Corp. of McLean, Va., a year ago, won initial support from public safety groups. Cyren proposed that the FCC set aside an additional 30 MHz for first responders to create a network under a single nationwide license to be held by a public trust. However, the FCC declined to consider Cyren Call because the commissioners said it does not comply with the auction terms mandated by 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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