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Back to Archives | Back to February 2011 Contents 

President's Message

700 MHz D-Block Radio Spectrum: It’s Important to IACP Members

Mark A. Marshall, Chief of Police, Smithfield Police Department, Smithfield, Virginia

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he IACP has a long and proud history of promoting advances in law enforcement techniques and technology and continues to be in the forefront of developing and promoting next generation communication and information sharing capabilities.

We are active participants in such activities as the Department of Justice Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative, the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Services Advisory Policy Board, the development of the FBI N-DEx system, the Department of Homeland Security SAFECOM Program, and many others.

Our vision for law enforcement communication capabilities of the future includes several key elements. The vision is closely related to the development of Next Generation 9-1-1 services that seek to address the following problems:

  • The capability for the public to electronically exchange both voice and data with 9-1-1 centers known as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Today, the public can communicate with 9-1-1 centers only by voice, and it is not possible to send text messages or photos to 9-1-1.

  • The capability for 9-1-1 centers to electronically exchange broadband data with other 9-1-1 centers. Today, most centers are not able to electronically forward information to neighboring 9-1-1 centers or exchange broadband data of importance with neighboring jurisdictions.

  • The capability for public safety field personnel to exchange broadband data by wireless communications among themselves and with 9-1-1 centers. Today, public safety must rely on commercial services for wireless broadband capabilities, and these services are limited in geographical coverage, often unreliable, and expensive. This is where the primary efforts of the IACP are related to the need for the 700 MHz D-Block spectrum.


The IACP is a charter member of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corporation (PSST), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) entity formed in June 2007. The PSST is made up of representatives of 15 national public safety organizations. The chairman of the IACP Communications and Technology Committee currently serves as the elected chairman of the PSST. The mission of the PSST is to provide an organizational structure through which decisions made by national public safety leadership can guide the construction and operation of an interoperable, nationwide, public safety wireless broadband network.

In July 2007, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued the Second Report and Order, which set into motion plans to build a nationwide, interoperable, public safety wireless broadband network. To facilitate that plan, in November 2007, the FCC issued a 10-year, nationwide Public Safety Broadband License (PSBL) to the PSST for 10 MHz of broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band.

The D-Block

The D-Block spectrum is located adjacent to the public safety broadband spectrum. The 2007 FCC plan was based on a public safety partnership with the winner of an auction of the D-Block spectrum. The winner of the D-Block would have been required to negotiate a network-sharing agreement with the PSBL so that public safety would have access to additional broadband spectrum during times of large events and emergencies. Unfortunately, the auction of the D-Block, conducted in early 2008, was not successful, and, now, the FCC has indicated its intention to abandon that plan and remove requirements for public safety access to the D-Block spectrum.

This is unacceptable, and all of the major national public safety organizations are united in making sure public safety has access to adequate spectrum resources for the proposed nationwide, interoperable, public safety wireless broadband network. This network is important for us to serve the needs of public safety in both urban and rural areas of the nation.

We know that the fourth generation commercial broadband technologies work best with a minimum of 20 MHz of spectrum, and that will require access to both the PS Block (10 MHz) and the D-Block (10MHz).


It is essential for law enforcement and public safety field personnel to have enough radio spectrum to facilitate the reliable wireless broadband data exchanges that are so critical to delivering quality public safety services.

Current law requires the FCC to auction the D-Block spectrum, and we are committed to changing the law by supporting legislative efforts to allocate the D-Block spectrum to public safety and provide funding to build and operate the nationwide, interoperable, public safety wireless broadband network. Once the legislation is reintroduced in the 112th Congress, the IACP will be notifying its members to become actively engaged in support of this effort. ■

Please cite as:

Mark A. Marshall, "700 MHz D-Block Radio Spectrum: It’s Important to IACP Members," President's Message, The Police Chief 78 (February 2011): 6.



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVIII, no. 2, February 2011. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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