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February 19, 1997

Separate Statement


Commissioner Susan Ness

Re: Wireless Communications Service (GN Docket No. 96-228)

I write separately to underscore my support for providing the public safety community with adequate and appropriate spectrum to meet its advanced communications needs. Public safety organizations deserve a spectrum plan that will enable different entities -- federal, state and local police, fire and rescue -- to communicate with each other on the same band, and to deploy the most sophisticated communications technologies and services available.

Pursuant to Congressional directive, we took a long and hard look at 2.3 GHz and found it was not suitable for this purpose. However, I am pleased to endorse our recommendation that Congress permit a portion of our spectrum auction proceeds be used to meet public safety communications needs. I also intend to work with my colleagues to craft a comprehensive, long term solution to public safety spectrum needs in our upcoming Report and Order in the Public Safety proceeding (WT Docket No. 96-86).

A Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee convened by the FCC and NTIA to consider public safety communications needs through the year 2010 issued its Final Report last September. The Report's recommendations and projections document the pressing need for substantial chunks of spectrum for both mobile and fixed wireless communications uses.

Today, public safety uses a hodge-podge of bands across the radio spectrum -- derived by chance rather than through coordinated planning. As a result, police, fire, sheriff, and federal authorities use different radios and frequencies. Tragically, they cannot communicate directly with each other in an emergency unless they maintain multiple radios in their vehicles. This is both inefficient and expensive.

Moreover, new technologies have spawned exciting wireless services to assist our emergency and law enforcement teams. Sufficient broad spectrum is needed to enable these agencies to use these new tools.

Some of the spectrum that will be vacated in the television broadcasting conversion to digital appears to be ideal for public safety mobile needs. Additional microwave spectrum will also be required to connect public safety networks and to link various sites.

As we review our options in the upcoming Public Safety proceeding, we should take care to make the spectrum blocks sufficiently large to foster low cost, spectrum-efficient equipment, and select bands technically appropriate for their intended use.