Groups Urge Rejection of Cyren Call Spectrum Proposal

The Consumer Electronics Association and the High Tech DTV Coalition warned that a proposal by Cyren Call to allocate 30 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum for a nationwide IP-based network for public safety "would derail Congress' plan to facilitate the DTV transition." Jason Oxman, vice president of communications at CEA, explained that this would "place public safety agencies at risk to get the spectrum and funding they need for interoperability--spectrum and funding already provided for in the current law.... CEA urges the FCC and Congress to maintain the DTV and Public Safety Act as it was signed into law last year."

Cyren Call is a private venture headed by Morgan O'Brien, one of the founders of Nextel. Under the plan, a public safety broadband trust would hold the licenses for 30 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum, establish network standards and hire a network manager. In addition to managing the network, the position would entail developing the technology needed to implement the broadband trust's requirements. The nationwide network would then be leased to public safety agencies around the country, but the wireless network lessees could offer capacity not used by public safety to commercial customers. By building out a nationwide system, Cyren Call said public safety agencies would be able to obtain an interoperable nationwide system with more advanced technology than they could obtain if they negotiated and built their own systems. See for more information.

Last week, CEA and the High Tech DTV Coalition released a report from Criterion Economics that described "serious flaws" in the Cyren Call proposal. Criterion Economics said, "...the report finds that the Cyren Call plan is likely to delay improvements in public safety communications and harm consumer welfare. It would disrupt the carefully crafted DTV transition, delaying indefinitely the availability of additional spectrum and funding to solve interoperability; be likely to fail economically, as it assumes private industry would pay more to use the system than the competitive market would support; force public safety agencies and the federal government to bear the entire risk of failure, including a government-backed loan guarantee of $5 billion; and deprive consumers and taxpayers of other benefits of the DTV transition, including advanced wireless services made possible by the newly available spectrum, and $7 billion in deficit reduction."

The report said a better approach would be to adopt a new national model for managing public safety spectrum to ensure effective emergency communications. It concluded, "...the Cyren Call proposal is neither workable or desirable. 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 process than to promote it."

For additional information, read the report Improving Public Safety Communications: An Analysis of Alternative Approaches from Criterion Economics.