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President Obama last week included a wireless broadband deployment plan as part of the American Jobs Act that he announced in a speech to Congress Thursday night. The President is calling for broadband access to 98 percent of Americans, and paying for it through television spectrum auctions.

The devil is in the details. Only first responders get broadband in the White House plan. The “D-Block” spectrum (worth some $3B) would be gifted to first responders. Some $7 billion in taxpayer money would build a dedicated (non-public) network.

Cash would be generated by selling unused television frequencies.

Public-safety representatives have been meeting with federal officials this week and say their hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee went “very, very well”, asking Congress to reallocated the 700 MHz D Block. Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said he believes that D Block reallocation is “absolutely essential” to ensure that public-safety agencies have the communications needed.

Proponents of the FCC’s spectrum sharing plan say that $10B won’t be nearly enough. Building and maintaining a network and supplying all the $5,000 radios could cost 2-3 times the $10B budgeted. You’d probably need infrastructure similar to Verizon’s LTE network — so why not let Verizon or AT&T build it out. Sharing network infrastructure – and cost – might benefit everyone.

Incentive auctions would raise funds. Spectrum has been freed up by the advent of digital broadcast television. The “white space” spectrum would be sold to the highest bidder (like AT&T and Verizon), under the Administration plan.

Telecoms presumably don’t want white spaces to become “free” — like Wi-Fi.

The White House-distributed fact sheet on the bill included this section:

“The plan follows the model in the bipartisan legislation from Senators Rockefeller and Hutchison in including an investment to develop and deploy a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety.

The plan includes reallocating the D Block for public safety (costing $3 billion) and $7 billion to support the deployment of this network and technological development to tailor the network to meet public safety requirements.

This is part of a broader deficit-reducing wireless initiative that would free up public and private spectrum to enable the private sector to deploy high-speed wireless services to at least 98 percent of Americans, even those living in remote rural and farming communities.

In addition, freeing up spectrum from the private sector through voluntary incentive auctions that were included in both the Rockefeller-Hutchison bill and the House-passed Budget would raise money to pay for these investments in public safety and also reduce the deficit.”


The White House plan differs from the FCC plan in that the FCC hopes to auction the “D Block” and have commercial cellular operators build the infrastructure for a [shared] broadband wireless service reaching 98% of the country. First responders would get priority access to all the 700 MHz LTE spectrum.

Land Mobile Radio (FCC Bureau) generally utilizes handsets with ten times the power (2 watts instead of 200mW), but connect to radio towers that are spaced much further apart (15 miles instead of 1.5 miles).

Which plan is better? Cynics say it’s mostly politics — that Republicans will be against whichever plan the Obama administration is for.

But selling “White Spaces” to the highest bidder could be a big mistake. Free WiFi has become a Trillion Dollar business. Carriers hate free access, but free WiFi made their businesses viable. The same may be true for White Spaces. It won’t be fast…and it certainly won’t be free if carriers monopolize the spectrum.

The FCC says 120 MHz of TV spectrum could be reallocated to wireless broadband after moving broadcasters to Channels 2-31. Broadcasters are in private negotiations with the FCC to share in the profits of selling spectrum. The idea is that competing local broadcasters may want to merge on a single channel, using digital television multiplexing. That frees up their original broadcast channel which can be auctioned off.

Broadcasters never paid a dime for their airwaves. They now have zero “public service” obligations.

Who cares what broadcasters think.

There’s disagreement whether auctioning the “D Block” spectrum will help or hurt. What’s best for the nation and it’s citizens? I would argue that a D-Block auction with free “white space” access is the best way to go. It saves money and delivers ubiquitous broadband – for everyone.

The FCC supports auctioning the “D Block”, with a shared public/private operation. Most first responder agencies support dedicated networks, as does the Obama administration.

Smartphones are changing how departments can respond to emergencies. Power – and apps – are moving to people’s smartphones.

Mission-critical, voice-over-LTE is possible, but it’s not available today. Some industry pundits say mission-critical voice over broadband could be available within a few years, while others project it will not happen during the next decade.

Related stories on DailyWireless include; Public Service Radio Convention, Public Safety Net Removed from Debt Ceiling Bill, The D-Block Gamble, D-Block Gets a Hearing, National Wireless Initiative, White House: D-Block to Police/Fire, State of the Spectrum, FCC Green Lights Lightsquared, Oregon’s $600M Public Safety Network Likely Killed, National Wireless Initiative, Mobile: Trillion Dollar Industry, White Space War, White Space To Go, White Spaces Get IEEE Standard, Microsoft: Shared Spectrum Analyzers for White Space, White Space: Now With TD-LTE?, FCC Chooses White Space Administrators, FCC Okays White Spaces , Hospital Tests White Spaces, FCC to Decide on White Spaces, White Spaces Tested in Wilmington NC , First White Space Trial for “Smart Grid”, White Spaces Trialed in North Carolina, White Spaces Heating Up, FCC Moves Forward with White Space Databases, Study: White Spaces Worth $100B, Microsoft’s WhiteFi: Wi-Fi Using Whitespaces, NAB to FCC: White Spaces Illegal, Free White Space Mapping, White Spaces: It’s The Law, TV White Spaces: New Era for Wi-Fi?, NAB: Blowblack on Whitespace, White Spaces: Green Light from FCC Report, White Space Field Testing, Welcome to the White Space, Microsoft Disputes FCC Unlicensed Finding, FCC: License-free 700MHz Devices Failed Test, Broadcasters: Portable Devices Kill DTV, Mud Fight in White Space, Pushing for “White Space”, Google Launches White Space Offensive, Motorola on Whites Spaces: We’re Good, White Space Field Testing, Google Pitches White Spaces, White Spaces: Now It’s GE, CTIA: Unlicensed White Spaces Bad, AT&T MediaFLO Spectrum: More Review, LTE Vrs WiMAX: It’s a Wrap!, Nokia & Microsoft: White Space Phone?, The 700 Mhz Club

One Response to “Broadband Disability Act”

The Public Safety approach to the D block is flawed. It is dependant on the FCC auctioning off the WHite Space spectrum being freed up by the Broadcasters and providing enough $$$ to build out the new PS Wireless Network.
1. Carriers will not bid on the spectrum in the White Space because of how small the spectrum (in MHz) is and how difficult it would be to build any wireless network with these widely space channels.
2. PS has failed YTD in deploying any viable wireless network within the existing PS Spectrum they have nationwide, and there is no indication that they would be able to do anything better with more spectrum (new D Block).
3. Wheresas the big carriers have a major incentive to build out and share a new D Block based LTE network Nationwide as the FCC has proposed-AT&T and or VZW can be charged with delivering this new Network in a timely manner and be required to turn over all D Block channels to the PS during any emergency. They would also be willing to incorporate existing PS spectrum in this new LTE network to the benefit of all parties.

The Fed does not have the Billions of $$ available to build out a PS network if they gave the D block away free.

Jim A

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