Task Force: Auction Parts of Spectrum Reserved for Public Safety

NEW ORLEANS – In hopes of bringing high-speed wireless internet to unserved areas, a Louisiana legislative task force agreed Tuesday to recommend auctioning off much of a spectrum previously reserved for public safety.

The task force included in its report measures it said are intended to protect current users.

“I think we’re proceeding with great caution,” said state Rep. Daryl Deshotel, a Marksville Republican.

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The Federal Communications Commission approved rules last year permitting expanded use of the 4.9 GHz spectrum, which the federal government dedicated to public safety uses in 2003. The FCC said the spectrum is underused and only 3.5% of potential licensees have taken advantage of the opportunity.

Under new rules, states are allowed to lease this spectrum to third parties to boost wireless broadband, improve critical infrastructure monitoring and facilitate public safety. The FCC gave states flexibility to decide how to allocate the spectrum.

Deshotel previously said the spectrum likely would not be used to serve consumers directly but businesses could use it to communicate between multiple locations. He said expanding the uses of the 4.9 GHz spectrum would not solve the problem of unequal access to reliable internet service, but it could be “part of the solution.”

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Under the task force proposal, in 29 parishes where public safety agencies are using the spectrum, nothing will be auctioned until after meeting with those agencies, Deshotel said. Ten percent of the bandwidth would be set aside for possible use in a future disaster.

“Where it is being used has got to be protected,” said Robert Moore with the Ouachita Parish Fire Department.

The spectrum would be auctioned off in 10 megahertz blocks for use on a three-year trial basis followed by a possible two-year extension. A newly created broadband office in the executive branch would oversee the auction, Deshotel said.

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The task force report will be made available to the full Louisiana Legislature for consideration during the session that begins in April.


By David Jacobs of the Center Square

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