PSST urges Obama for $15B in safety network financing

Tue, 12/23/2008 - 6:18am
Evan Koblentz, Wireless Week

A day after urging President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team to earmark $15 billion for a national public safety wireless network, Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) Chairman Harlin McEwen said his organization’s hands are now tied until the new year, and probably until Obama’s selection of a new FCC leader.

The PSST is a non-profit company, currently advised and funded with an undisclosed amount by Cyren Call Communications, intended to oversee a network built on the D-block of 700 MHz spectrum that will be vacated from analog television signals in February next year.

“To make this endeavor a success, we recommend $15 billion be allocated from the economic stimulus to allow the commercial partner(s) to build out the [network] to public safety requirements, such as coverage of 99.3 percent of the population, extra hardening, redundancy and security not included in any current commercial networks. The remainder of the cost, including ongoing maintenance and refreshment of the network, would be the responsibility of the private partner(s) and we would not anticipate any ongoing federal funding,” McEwen states in the letter.

The spectrum is due for a fresh auction next year, after not receiving a high enough bid based on FCC rules. “Right now, there isn’t anything happening. We expect because we’ve talked to all the commissioners that it will move forward early next year. We’re waiting now, of course, for the President-elect to announce his choice for FCC chairman,” McEwen said today. “We have been talking with people both in Congress and on the transition team and there seems to be support,” which is bipartisan, he added. “We haven’t found anybody who seems to be opposed to what we want to do.”

Not surprisingly, Cyren Call Chairman Morgan O’Brien also issued a statement expressing support for the PSST perspective. An FCC investigation found that Cyren Call was not responsible for the previous auction’s low bid.

It’s a different story in the private sector, as both AT&T and Verizon Wireless – the nation’s two largest wireless companies – both previously opposed the national plan. The D-block spectrum should be sold regionally, not nationally, the incumbents said.

More Broadband Direct:

• Harmonic buys Scopus, plugs gap

New FCC chair not expected until New Year

 PSST urges Obama for $15B in safety network financing

• Router problem affecting Time Warner VoIP

NCTA gives CableCards update

AT&T and Verizon complete asset swap

 Broadband Briefs for 12/23/08


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