One potential benefit of the switch is still in the works. Four channels of the spectrum were designated for public safety use, potentially allowing police and fire departments from different jurisdictions to communicate on the same network. During their response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, police and firefighters were prevented from communicating in some areas because their devices were incompatible, partly because they weren't using the same frequencies.
The government had hoped a company would step forward to build a public-private network on the spectrum that would allow police, firefighters and other emergency personnel to share information, but no one bid the $1.3-billion minimum required. Copps said the new FCC chief would have to come up with a new plan to build such a network.