FCC Moves on 700 MHz D Block Issues

At its meeting Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission moved on a proposal to auction the challenged block of 700 MHz spectrum, revising part of the rules governing the public/private partnership that was part of the original auction of frequencies.

Earlier this year, the FCC auctioned off three blocks of the coveted spectrum, and generated more than $19 billion in bids. The so-called D block of spectrum didn't meet its minimum bid requirements, and that compelled the FCC to revisit its plans for the spectrum block.

The FCC said it wants to keep intact the public/private partnership framework for the D block. The notice released by the commission Thursday proposes a modified set of rules to govern the block and the partnership and a revised auction plan for assigning D Block licenses. The proposal from the FCC also lowered the minimum bid price to $750 million.

The FCC said it wants to use the competitive bidding process to determine whether, based on population coverage and highest bid, whether the D Block should be licensed to a single entity on a nationwide basis or to regional licensees in 58 regions. The commission also proposed revised obligations for D Block licensees and public safety users regarding the construction and operation of a shared wireless broadband network using the frequencies.

FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin said the proposals released Thursday attempt to strike the right balance between serving the communications needs of public safety and the need to ensure the commercially viability of any partnership.

"Let us be clear about what is at stake; without the partnership, there are no other viable tools for the commission to ensure that this network can be built in a timely manner, with a maximum level of interoperability for use by all public safety entities small and large, rural and urban," Martin said.