I’ve written on this blog before about Cyren Call, Nextel founder Morgan O’Brien’s venture to create a national wireless broadband network for first responders. Its plan calls for 30 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band that are slated for auction. A couple of months ago the FCC turned down Cyren Call’s petition, saying Congress’s instructions were quite clear and the Commission didn’t have the authority to refuse to auction the spectrum. Morgan O’Brien spoke at the symposium we held late last year and hinted that he was already working on getting Congress to approve his plan. (Video here.)
Well, today comes word that John McCain has signed on to the Cyren Call plan. This is especially newsworthy since the Senate will soon take a look at the recently passed House bill to implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. As I explained earlier today, that bill addresses first responder communications, but doesn’t mention new spectrum for public safety. McCain said he plans to introduce legislation in the near future to assign the 30 MHz to the Public Safety Broadband Trust the Cyren Call plan calls for. I’m not convinced you need 30 MHz of spectrum to create a viable network, and so I’m not sure it’s time to remove spectrum from efficient allocation by auctions. Verizon hinted a while back that they could do it in just 12 MHz of the 24 already slated for public safety, and the FCC is currently taking comments in a proceeding to create just such a network in 12 MHz. Comments are due on Feb. 26. Note to Verizon: Now would be a fine time to make details of your plan public.
The other problem I see is that the Cyren Call/McCain plan would create one monopoly provider. The FCC plan has the same problem. If it can be done in 12 MHz, why not create two competing networks in the 24 MHz of spectrum already allocated for public safety?