In the face of a Congressional mandate to auction a portion of the 700 MHz band to commercial companies, President Obama has now thrown his support for a plan backed by public safety groups to directly assign the spectrum for a nationwide wireless network that would link first responders. The President’s support virtually ensures that the D Block of spectrum will not be auctioned. The New York Times reports that “senior administration officials” have said the President announced his decision to public safety leaders just before Tuesday’s State of the Union speech. Congress ordered the auction as a way of offsetting the federal deficit, and later the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also backed an auction as a way of funding a future public safety wireless network. But public safety groups have said assigning the D Block directly to a trustee would be more effective to create an interoperable network for law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies. Several groups that included the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and National Emergency Number Association (NENA) have been lobbying Congress to change the law requiring the auction. This week Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) re-introduced a bill for direct spectrum assignment, and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said he will soon propose similar legislation in the House. Read more about the President’s support here., and information about the President’s wireless initiative here.E-mail this story
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