DTV Coalition Plan No Cyren Call

The High Tech DTV Coalition today criticized an alternative plan by Nextel founder Morgan O’Brien to use spectrum allocated for public safety communications by Congress.

O’Brien is proposing half of the spectrum be deeded to a Public Safety Broadband Trust managed by his company, Cyren Call, which would lease the spectrum to commercial operators in exchange for the operators’ commitment to construct a national broadband network. Cyren Call claims the new network would support a nationwide public safety interoperable system.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rejected the plan last year, but Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has drafted legislation supporting the idea.

As part of the digital television transition legislation passed by the 109th Congress, lawmakers set aside approximately one-third of the analog spectrum being vacated by television broadcasters exclusively for public-safety purposes. The FCC will auction the rest of the spectrum for wireless broadband use.

The auction is expected to raise $10 billion to $20 billion, with $1 billion of the proceeds dedicated to funding a nationwide interoperable emergency communications system.

“Under the Cyren Call plan, commercial operators would be required to build a nationwide broadband network at a considerable cost premium to the one they would otherwise build,” according to a report released today by the DTV Coalition.

For the Cyren Call plan to succeed, commercial operators would have to price the services provided by the network at a premium in order to cover the subsidies required to support the public safety portions of the network.

“This model is not sustainable in a competitive industry,” the report states. “It would place private carriers using the shared network at a significant competitive disadvantage and prevent them from earning an economic return on their investments.”

Members of the High Tech Coalition include Cisco , Dell ), Intel , Microsoft , Qualcomm , Texas Instruments , Verizon Wireless and a number of technology trade associations.

Cyren Call did not reply to a request for comment on the report.

“Congress took a landmark step last year towards ensuring that public safety officials have the means they need to communicate in times of crisis, but the job isn’t complete,” Jeffrey Connaughton, executive director of the High Tech DTV Coalition, said in a statement accompanying the report.

“We now need to build on the success of the DTV Act by keeping to the timetable for conversion of 24MHz of spectrum for public safety and by ensuring that the 24MHz of spectrum is used efficiently and effectively.”

Connaughton said Congress should stick to its hard date of Feb. 17, 2009, to complete the transition to digital television broadcasting. He also said the FCC should promote the construction of a nationwide, interoperable broadband public safety network by issuing a single national license to a public-safety licensee.

He also urged that at least half of the 24MHz of spectrum should be designated for broadband services in order to provide first responders with the latest in next-generation communications technology.

“Overall, we conclude that the Cyren Call proposal is neither workable nor desirable,” the report concludes. “The steps needed for rapid improvements in public safety communications are already in motion, and Cyren Call’s plan would do more to disrupt this progress than to promote it.”

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