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Spectrum Analysis Even after the Federal Communications Commission announced the rules for its upcoming auction of the wireless spectrum last week, commissioners continued to argue the merits of mandating open access for wireless devices and wholesale spectrum leases. But one significant policy proposal avoided a dust-up: The commission unanimously supported combining 12 MHz of commercial spectrum with 10 MHz reserved for public safety, a move meant to foster a national emergency communications system built in a public-private partnership. The idea wasn’t without controversy. Incumbent wireless providers once lobbied against virtually any FCC encumbrances on the auction. But Cyren Call and Frontline Wireless, two fledgling companies with big-name backers and significant lobbying operations, shifted the debate. “There’s no question that the ideas that Cyren Call and Frontline put forward helped drive this process,” says Robert Gurss, vice president of Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corp., a contender to represent emergency personnel’s interests in how the network gets built. Cyren Call, headed by Nextel co-founder Morgan O’Brien, made the initial push last year with a proposal to set aside half the spectrum for a public safety communications network. Helping make the case were the Fritts Group, Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, Clark & Weinstock, and St. Louis firm Thompson Coburn, but the original plan needed congressional support and didn’t get it. Still, Cyren Call’s effort rallied the public safety community behind the idea of an emergency communications system built with private funds, and Cyren Call spokesman Tim O’Regan says his company is prepared to advise on building a public safety network. “The role that we originally sought is still the one we’re looking to have,” he says. Frontline came into the process later, making a last-minute bid in February to combine the commercial spectrum slated for auction with the spectrum reserved for public safety. To complement high-profile backers such as former FBI Director Louis Freeh and former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, the company brought on Covington & Burling for lobbying and legal work. Partners Gerald Waldren and John Blake and four associates helped Frontline’s principals pitch the technical details of its plan to the FCC, public safety officials, and members of Congress as “one last, great opportunity” to combine a national emergency communications network with unprecedented access for startups in the wireless business, Blake says. The commission bit on half of the proposal, combining the spectra into a public-private block, but declined to mandate that some of that spectrum block be leased out wholesale, a condition unappetizing to big telecom companies. Frontline may petition the FCC for reconsideration on the issue. But even as the auction rules stand, Frontline can now move from making suggestions to “being a company that is now financially and operationally oriented” to bid on the spectrum at auction, firm Chairwoman Janice Obuchowski says. Frontline’s role in the FCC deliberations and its prominent backers can’t hurt its efforts to raise an auction stake. “I don’t assume that we’re going to change our energy level,” Obuchowski says. — Jeff Horwitz
Medical Miracles? Faith is great, but sometimes, even God needs a lobbyist. To that end, the Christian Care Ministry, which runs a faith-based program allowing members to share medical expenses, has hired Jon Rawlson of Akerman Senterfitt. The group wants to make sure that any national plans for health care reform include them as an acceptable alternative to traditional insurance, Rawlson says. The Ministry, whose Web site says it’s not for profit, allows members to pay a monthly fee and share medical expenses among a large group. It isn’t the same as insurance, and the Web site says the group doesn’t guarantee that all medical expenses will be covered. It does promise that any money paid won’t be used “to fund unbiblical, unhealthy (and expensive) lifestyles,” including abortions. “They’re small, and the industry is a small industry. . . . It has flown under the radar,” Rawlson says of his client. “They want to have a seat at the table.” Rawlson, who primarily lobbies for health care providers, says he plans to educate lawmakers about the Christian health care option to make sure his client isn’t forgotten come reform time. “It’s really an educational opportunity more than anything else,” he says. — Carrie Levine

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