February 19, 1997
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.