D Block Survey ResultsSunday, April 13, 2008
First, I would like to thank all who took the time to take part in the survey I put up last week in conjunction with my COMMENTARY and what to do with the D block. The response was gratifying. While the survey is still open and more people are completing it as I write this, I want to give you an update on what I have learned so far.
First the disclaimer: Most of the people (90%) who took this survey indentified themselves, their titles and their email addresses (this is optional on the survey). It would, however, be wrong to believe that each and every respondent from each company or organization was expressing the opinion of the entire organization. Next, we received responses from both the first responder community and the commercial community. These were mostly from the commercial side, which I was happy to see because it tells me there is concern within that community about the first responders and their need for better communications capabilities. Finally, I was pleased to see that a majority of the respondents believe we need to include solving the broadband issues in rural America problem, and that this network could be used to provide both the updated communications the first responder community so desperately needs and include providing broadband connections to homes and businesses located in rural America.
Now to the questions and answers:
1) Do you believe we need to find a way to help the first responder community?
This question is one in which I have a lot of interest. I have been working with the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) recently and one of the issues it is facing, of course, is how to economically deploy broadband to its rural customers. It turns out that the 1,400-member electric and telephone companies (some of which are also wireless operators) can contribute a lot to this undertaking in the area of rights-of-ways for cell sites, backhaul in some cases and outlets to reach its installed base and provide services. If you add to this the fact that it can also tap into some federal money that is available from various agencies, the NRTC can become a valuable partner in this project.
This is one of those questions where you can guess the answers before you read them. Most people in the industry believe the feds should fund some of this project, especially since the amount it was counting on from the rest of the 700-MHz auction was exceeded by $billions. Perhaps the money raised from the sale of the D block should immediately revert to a fund to help build the network, $2 or $3 billion would certainly help kick-start the project.
The last three questions concern a meeting that would kick off efforts for a consortium of players. It should be held prior to any FCC decision to re-auction the D block and, I believe, the outcome of the meeting or meetings should be carefully considered by the FCC in its new or amended rules for the handling of the D Block re-auction.
I worded this question in this manner because I did not want those responding to think that by answering ‘yes’ they were committing themselves or their companies to a sponsorship, and I chose to offer three answers: yes, no and need more info, because I did not include any information regarding the cost of such a meeting. I don’t think it would be very high, though. It would need a location, perhaps a continental breakfast and break drinks, and if we wanted it to run all day, lunch and afternoon break refreshments, which would have to include a sugar rush for all who needed it in the afternoon.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this COMMENTARY, I am leaving the survey in place in case others want to provide their answers. I don’t think the percentages will change much and I am quite comfortable with results since more than 90% of the respondents provided their names, titles, organization and email contact information. There was one final question in the survey that enabled respondents to provide additional comments.
See http://snipurl.com/23y06 [www_fbo_gov] for possible anchor tenant on 700, considering mandate that the provider must eventually cover all interstates and major hwys
This URL takes you to the Fed BizOpps.com site where the DOT is asking for information regarding a Vehicle Infrastructure Integration Business Model and, yes, I believe they would be a great anchor tenant. In addition, we have not yet included other first or second responders such as utilities, AAA and its fleet of tow trucks, communications technicians and many more. Had these groups been permitted access to New Orleans, communications capabilities would have been restored in a much shorter period of time, but since they were not deemed first responders, they were kept out, which, in turn, jeopardized the lives of those who were inside trying to rescue others.
Why aren't the 700 MHz Regional Planning Committees involved in this process?
This comment refers to the public safety 700-MHz regional planning committees that have been working hard on 700-MHz allocations for some time now. I believe the correct answer is that they are, or should be, represented by the PSST or should discuss their role in this type of a meeting or meetings with the PSST.
In regards to getting operators to build, some might bid to be able to build it, others might bid to be paid to build it. Rather than have tax credits, why not go about it more directly?
The ideas in my COMMENTARY are not necessarily the right approach to all aspects of this complex project, they were meant as starting points that need to be explored and expanded.
Rural and First Responders continue to be ignored so this seems like a place where utility can win out over simply making money in Urban areas.
I have talked to a number of organizations, including network operators that are in agreement that some of what needs to happen is a giving back to the community. They are willing to do just that, but not alone, shouldering the burden of an expensive network by themselves with no guarantee there will be a return on investment at some point. They seem to favor, and so do I, a way that many different organizations can all do their part and make this network a reality without placing a burden on only one network operator or new entrant.
There were many comments about the fact that perhaps we won’t be able to get anything done until we have a new administration in Washington, and I hope that is not the case. Delaying this for a year does not help solve the problem and I am sure Chairman Martin does not want this to run past the end of his term.
I will never claim that this survey should be considered as the final word in how we should move forward as I am sure there are many other points of view out there. My desire is to get a dialogue going within and among the two industry segments and find a solution to this problem—a solution that is good for the first responder community and also for the commercial operators or a new entrant coming in to try to make a go of it.
Andrew M. Seybold