700 MHz: NYPD Asks Martin Public Safety Plan to Please Move Along

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin has stuck by his plan for a public-private partnership for public safety uses in the D Block of the 700 MHz spectrum vacated by full-power television broadcasters when they cease analog broadcasts in February 2009.

His plan took a hit this spring when no takers offered the minimum bid for the block due to the uncertainty the buildout requirements.

Now, the greatest heroes of all, the New York City Police Department, has delivered a 12-page smackdown on the entire concept of the public-private partnership, which Martin has maintained is still the best tool for creating a nationwide interoperable public safety network unless Congress provides better tools.

“The failure of the D Block auction illustrates the problems inherent in the nationwide Public Private Partnership concept,” the commanding officer of the NYPD Communications Division told the FCC in a filing. “Although public safety and commercial networks may share technology, they do not serve the same mission. Conflicts of interest arise that cannot be ignored. Public safety agencies require a robust network that will remain operational during virtually any circumstance. However, commercial network operators are motivated by commercial priorities to build networks that meet commercial requirements.”

The NYPD said it thinks there is “simply no business case” for such a dual-purpose network.

“Potential bidders are reluctant to bid due to the enormous costs to construct the network coupled with the uncertainty of the public safety requirements that they would be required to meet,” NYPD said.

Besides, NYPD said, the city is well on its way to establishing a network that fulfills its own needs, which include answering 11 million 911 calls annually across more than 300 square miles. The NYCWIN public safety broadband network is already operational in Manhattan, Brooklyn and parts of the Bronx and Queens, with full deployment expected by year’s end. That network, constructed by Northrop Grumman Corp., uses 2.5 GHz spectrum.

“There is little incentive for New York City public safety agencies to pay subscriber fees to access a nationwide public/private broadband network when a municipal broadband data network is available,” NYPD wrote.

The comments are among those weighing in on the FCC’s rulemaking for the upcoming re-auction of the D Block.