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Firms Fight Cyren Call

A coalition of technology companies that includes Intel, Microsoft and Cisco Systems is urging Congress to resist an initiative supported by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would use half of the analog-TV spectrum earmarked for auction to create a nationwide broadband public-safety network that commercial users could share.

The High Tech DTV Coalition outlined its concerns in a letter last Tuesday to Senate Commerce Committee leaders two days before the panel's hearing on public-safety spectrum needs. The letter's goal: To undercut a public-safety spectrum plan advanced by an entity called Cyren Call, backed by Nextel cofounder Morgan O'Brien.

The letter was sent to Commerce Committee chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and ranking member Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

Cyren Call's plan would cut in half the availability of beachfront spectrum that cable companies might want to acquire to offer robust wireless broadband services to complement their triple play offerings. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association is studying the plan, said its vice president of communications, Brian Dietz.

Last year, Congress allocated 24 Megahertz of analog-TV spectrum to public-safety organizations, largely in response to recommendations by the federal 9/11 Commission. Another 60 MHz is to be auctioned by the Federal Communications Commission, starting no later than next January, in a sale expected to reap at least $10 billion. The 84 MHz won't become available for any non-broadcast-TV purposes until the analog-TV cutoff occurs Feb. 17, 2009.

Cyren Call wants Congress to consider taking 30 MHz of the analog-TV spectrum slated for auction and using it to create a national, interoperable broadband network for first responders.

McCain recently announced that he would introduce legislation effectively implementing the Cyren Call plan.

In the letter, the coalition argued that the Cyren Call plan would disrupt the digital-TV transition signed into law last February, partly by reducing projected spectrum revenue.