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Former FCC Chair Reed Hundt in Hunt for Spectrum

Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt is part of a group looking to sell the FCC on a new public safety communications network plan using some of the broadcast spectrum reclaimed and being auctioned in the switch to digital.

Frontline Wireless, whose partners include Hundt and former National Telecommunications & Information Association head Janice Obuchowsky, proposes to bid on spectrum in the upcoming 700 mHz auction, which is the spectrum being reclaimed for government/private use when broadcasters are concentrated in the lower band for digital broadcasting.

Frontline Wireless is telling the FCC that if it can win at least 10 channels worth of spectrum adjacent to the 12 mHz of that public safety spectrum earmarked for broadband communications, it can develop a nationwide network that will be available for first responders but can be used by commercial interests when there is not an emergency.

Per Congress' instructions in the DTV transition bill passed in late 2005, the FCC has proposed setting aside 24 mHz of spectrum from the auction to be used for public safety communications, with 12 mHz going to broadband communications and 12 mHz to narrowband voice communications, but some in the public safety community say that 12 mHz for broadband is not enough and have supported an alternative plan by Cyren Call.

The Cyren Call proposal would be to cut the 60 mHz being auctioned in half and auction only 30, putting the other 30 in a public safety trust that Cyren Call would turn into a nationwide emergency network when it was needed and a commercial network when there was no emergency.

Frontline argues its plan is better because it would not require the Congress to amend the DTV bill and would allow the auction to proceed as planned.

Hundt is the second former FCC chairman to weigh in on the public safety spectrum issue in the past three weeks. Michael Powell, now an industry consultant, sent a letter to Senate Commerce Committee Vice Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) supporting Congress' plan for setting aside only the 24 mHz spectrum in the 700 mHz band and raising questions about Cyren Call's proposal.