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25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

25th Anniversary of FCC Decision Enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
A series of posts describing how this all came about. (Click on picture above)

Friday, December 22, 2006

FCC Revives Marcus
"Interruptible Spectrum" Proposal

First Holiday Greetings to all readers. We are actually in Cape Town as I write this for vacation and about to head off to the local wine area and then off to see big game in a reserve.

But surfing the web yesterday with the laptop and Wi-Fi connection that came with my hotel here I was amazed to see the details of the new FCC proposals in Docket 06-229, "Implementing a Nationwide, Broadband, Interoperable Public Safety Network in the 700 MHz Band/Development of Operational, Technical and Spectrum Requirements for Meeting Federal, State and Local Public Safety Communications Requirements Through the Year 2010". (PC World coverage)

In some ways the proposal follows what the UK is doing, although it never says acknowledges the UK precedent: The UK has implemented a nationwide law enforcement network using the European TETRAPOL technology which is hated by Motorola and the APCO establishment. More important than the technology choice and common to the FCC proposal is that fact that it is operated by a private carrier (BT, the old British Telecom/Post Office) which built it without public finding and sells service to the 50 odd local police agencies in the UK. (The UK government actually things there are too many police agencies in their country and want to decrease the number to about a dozen. They have no idea what the problem is in the US with thousands of independent police agencies, each picking their own uniforms, guns, and radio systems!)

The FCC proposal is avant garde in that it would use IP technology, leapfrogging the TETRAPOL issue with a more modern approach.

But what really got my attention was the following paragraph:

"41. Under our proposal, the national public safety licensee would be permitted to lease access to commercial service providers on an unconditionally preemptible basis and enter into spectrum lease arrangements with commercial service providers in the manner of a public/private partnership for joint provision of public safety and commercial services. A key element of permitting commercial service is a strict requirement that any commercial use be unconditionally preemptible by the national public safety licensee. Specifically, commercial users would be on plain notice that their use may be, without notice, subject to immediate termination at the sole discretion of the national public safety licensee. We propose that there would be no conditions placed on the national licensee prior to making a determination to cease secondary commercial use. The national public safety licensee would have the unfettered right, which cannot be compromised or contracted away, to unilaterally determine when a secondary commercial use must be discontinued in the interests of public safety. Clearly, then, commercial users would need to ensure that, as part of any business plan, they have spectrum or communications alternatives in place to anticipate the event that their use may be preempted. We also envision, however, that our dedication to creating a nationwide, interoperable, broadband public safety network could incent accelerated development and use of advanced technologies, such as cognitive radios, by both public safety users as well as secondary commercial users. We seek comment on our proposal to permit commercial use on an unconditional preemptible basis as described above."

This was a concept that came out of the Spectrum Policy Task Force deliberations at FCC and was first aired in a paper I coauthored with my FCC colleague, Mark M. Bykowsky. It was explored in the cognitive radio rulemaking, Docket 03-108 and was implemented in a very limited way - indeed commercial users were forbidden to lease public safety spectrum (the opposite of the new proposal) because of concerns of the public safety establishment that were, frankly, hard to understand. For my more recent thinking on this topic, please read my DySPAN 05 paper and presentation. {If you are interested in thse issues, let me strongly recommend you consider attending DySPAN 07 to be held April 17-20 in Dublin Ireland.}

So I am thrilled that the FCC has given the topic second thoughts and hope that the public safety community will be open minded this time also and consider the concept on its merits, not just tradition. I really believe that it will preserve the critical public safety telecom and provide some of the funding that is urgently needed. It will also increase spectrum productivity that will help all sectors of our economy.

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