FCC plans new auction for first-responder spectrum

New details of a plan to create a national communications network for police, fire and other emergency first responders were announced Sept. 5 by the Federal Communications Commission after an earlier effort to sell the network this year failed to produce a buyer, the Washington Post reports.

Under the new proposal, the network would be auctioned as one national block of radio spectrum or, alternatively, as 58 separate regional airwaves licenses. The agency said that it prefers to sell the spectrum as a whole and that it would give priority to such a bid. But if no one meets the minimum reserve price for the national block, the commission would close the auction with a minimum of half of the 58 regional licenses sold.

In March, the FCC set aside a chuck of spectrum in an auction of valuable 700-megahertz airwaves for public safety officials. A commercial partner would purchase the spectrum in the auction and share it with first responders during emergencies.

The public safety block was the only chunk of spectrum that didn't sell in that auction, receiving only one bid, well below the minimum reserve set by the FCC.

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