FCC readies for another auction of public safety spectrum

The Federal Communications Commission has announced the details of its new plan to create a national network for emergency first responders.

According to a report in the Washington Post, 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.

Earlier this year, FCC held an auction for radio frequency spectrum in the 700 MHz band that will be abandoned by television broadcasters next year when they make the federally mandated switch from analog to digital signals. The auction included creation of a 10 MHz license in the D Block to be part of a public/private partnership with the adjacent 10 MHz of spectrum dedicated to a Public Safety Broadband License. But bids for the spectrum fell far short of the $1.3 billion minimum, and no license was awarded.

The original auction and license requirements were criticized by Congress and industry as being too expensive and stringent for an economically risky partnership.

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