Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interoperable Broadband on Front-Burner; Ham Band May be Threatened

Creating a nationwide interoperable broadband network for emergency responders has emerged as a high priority item for both the FCC and the new session of Congress, and one bill introduced by a powerful House committee chairman could endanger the 70-centimeter amateur band. Virtually all plans involve dedicating certain frequencies in the 700-MHz band to creating the network. These frequencies were freed up by the migration of television broadcasting from analog to digital transmissions, and were initially scheduled to be auctioned off for commercial broadband use.

The FCC issued a Third Report and Order and Fourth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in an ongoing proceeding to set up the service. In addition, several related bills have been introduced into the new session of Congress, notably one by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and another by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY). According to the ARRL, King's bill, HR-607, includes a provision to provide alternative spectrum to commercial users who would lose potential frequencies through the creation of the emergency response network. Among the frequencies that would be subject to reallocation are 420-440 MHz, part of the 70-centimeter band currently shared by amateurs and federal government radiolocation services, such as PAVEPAWS radar. The ARRL has promised to fight that portion of Rep. King's bill. (See story below on ARRL request to contact members of Congress regarding this bill)