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High-tech interests against increased spectrum for public safety

Mobile-phone and high-tech sectors urged the new Democratic-led Congress to oppose any effort to dilute the pool of auction-bound 700 MHz spectrum, a major portion of which is being sought by public-safety advocates.
“The American public wants Congress to work in a bi-partisan manner to ensure that the most innovative communications technologies are made available as early and widely as possible,” said Jeff Connaughton, executive director of the High Tech DTV Coalition. “Congress took a tremendous stride towards a new communications future when it passed DTV legislation into law last year. The High Tech DTV Coalition will continue working to ensure that the goals of that legislation are realized, including the Feb. 17, 2009, transition deadline and the January 2008 auction plans.”
The High Tech DTV Coalition wrote a letter to Capitol Hill, signed by cellular trade group CTIA, Qualcomm Inc., Verizon Wireless, Aloha Partners, Alcatel-Lucent Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Texas Instruments Inc. and others.
The letter could be the start of a broader industry campaign to counter lobbying by Cyren Call Communications Corp. and public-safety organizations to set aside for public safety half of the 60 megahertz in the 700 MHz band set for auction.
Public-safety groups say they need an additional 30 megahertz of spectrum to supplement 24 megahertz in the 700 MHz band already coming their way. They propose creating a pubic-safety broadband trust to oversee a nationwide, interoperable broadband wireless network that commercial entities would build and share with first responders.
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed that half of public safety’s new 24 megahertz of spectrum be devoted to broadband under a public-private partnership similar to that pitched by the first-responder lobby.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the 60 megahertz of spectrum headed for auction could fetch $12.5 billion. Public-safety officials lobbying Congress have proposed raising $5 billion for the U.S. Treasury by using revenues from commercial users and through the assistance of federal loan guarantees like those previously made available to airline, shipping, pipelines and automotive industries.
Hanging overhead is growing concern over practical aspects of the transition from analog to digital TV, which is what would make the 700 MHz spectrum available. Several House GOP lawmakers introduced legislation last week to make the American public more aware of the coming changes through better outreach by industry and the government.


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