At its January 25 open meeting, the FCC expects to adopt an order and FNPRM addressing the need for state and municipal public safety wireless networks to use uniform or interoperable standards. The FCC’s goal in this proceeding is to ensure public safety agencies make use of the best possible technologies and networks in times of localized emergencies. The need for this effort is underscored by the failures and outages of public safety wireless networks during Hurricane Katrina and September 11.
Importantly however, with this item the FCC will not decide the fate of the D Block of 700 MHz spectrum, which was initially allocated for joint public safety / commercial use. Since failing to sell during FCC Auction 73 in 2008, this 10 MHz block of broadband-suitable spectrum has remained unused while policymakers debate whether commercial or public safety use (or some combination of the two) is most appropriate. Its future remains controversial. For background, see DWT’s previous advisory explaining the FCC’s original proposed plan and service rules for the 700 MHz D Block.