Public safety group urges $15B broadband investment

President-elect Barack Obama should allocate $15 billion for a nationwide wireless broadband network, according to a federally designated organization that holds a license to create such a network for public safety.

The Public Safety Spectrum Trust wants Obama to include funding for a network that commercial users and first responders would share in an upcoming economic stimulus package, according to a Dec. 19 letter from Harlin McEwen, chairman of the corporation, which represents 15 national public safety groups.

“This would be a win-win-win decision by the president-elect and the Congress because it would create jobs,” which is the main goal of the package, McEwen said in a news release today. “It would bring wireless broadband Internet access to the public that doesn’t have it, and it would result in a nationwide 700 MHz public safety wireless broadband network.”

In 2007, the Federal Communications Commission assigned a license to the trust for a nationwide broadband network that would be established in cooperation with the owner of the D Block of radio spectrum in the 700 MHz band.

FCC put the D Block up for auction in January but received only one bid that was less than the $1.3 billion minimum price. According to FCC’s terms, the winning bidder would set up a partnership with the Public Safety Spectrum Trust to jointly operate the spectrum and share it with public safety organizations.

In his letter to Obama, McEwen recommends creating a public/private partnership to structure and operate the nationwide broadband network. He said that approach would help Obama meet his campaign pledge to expand broadband services to underserved areas and improve interoperable public safety communications.

“Time is of the essence,” McEwen wrote. “Supporting these initiatives through allocating an extremely modest portion of the funding associated with the contemplated economic stimulus package would implement these key goals while creating significant job growth — both in the immediate network construction phase and into the future.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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