The failure by the congressional Super Committee to reach agreement on a proposal to trim the national deficit means public-safety officials will have to pursue other legislative avenues to get the 700 MHz D Block reallocated and secure the billions of dollars necessary to build out a stand-alone, nationwide LTE network for exclusive use by first responders.
The 700 MHz D Block is a 10 MHz swath of spectrum slated for commercial auction, under current law. Many public service radio advocates had hoped that the Super Committee would include language that would appropriate $7 billion to $12 billion in funding for the deployment of a nationwide LTE network, reports Urgent Communications.
Now that won’t be happening.
There have been several standalone bills that have been proposed, most notably S.911, which the Senate Commerce Committee passed overwhelmingly during the summer.
Meanwhile, many are waiting on Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) — chairman of the relevant House subcommittee that would consider D Block reallocation — to introduce legislation on the matter by the end of year.
Walden has been outspoken in his belief that the D Block should be auctioned to commercial operators, but many public-safety representatives believe Walden introducing legislation — even if it is not what first responders advocate — is an important step in the process.
Greg Walden has scheduled a Dec. 1 vote on legislation to support the creation of a nationwide, interoperable, broadband public-safety network. The soon-to-be introduced legislation is called the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act of 2011. “This legislation will create thousands of jobs, establish an interoperable public-safety network and reduce the deficit.”
Putting LTE on 700 MHz police relays sounds good – but don’t expect broadband data to reach everyone within a 10-15 mile radius. Six 700 MHz land/mobile radio towers (similar to the Portland map, above), can’t substitute for dozens of 700 MHz commercial celltowers without sacrificing capacity and speed.
Some industry observers believe Sprint has D-block ambitions. Perhaps Sprint could combine their 850 MHz (iDEN) spectrum with the 700 MHz D-Block, and offer a satellite phone link through Lightsquared (or Dish Networks). Combining the two-way “D-Block” with the downstream-only 700 MHz band owned by Dish Networks might offer synergies for rural and public service users.
The “D-Block” could provide shared nationwide public/private wireless broadband for everyone – without adding more than $10B in “taxes”. That’s what the FCC wants.
Neither Dish nor Sprint have much money to build out the D-Block for commercial service — unlike Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and cable operators – not to mention AT&T and Verizon. The benefit, according to proponents of shared D-Block is better service, everywhere for everyone — with no government subsidies.
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