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Congressional Vote On Spectrum, Funding Is Set

Members of Congress have agreed to include wireless spectrum provisions in a hotly-debated bill to extend a payroll tax reduction, possibly giving public safety dedicated frequencies for a nationwide network and $6 billion in funding to build and operate it. The entire legislative package is due for a vote on Friday, and indications are that it will pass and be signed by President Obama. Public safety groups have been lobbying Congress for over six years to obtain dedicated spectrum and funding, but the nation’s economy has pushed the proposed legislation down the list of Congressional priorities. Public safety amendments have been included in previous proposed legislation, but were always removed before final passage. Just this week Republicans and Democrats agreed to compromise on legislation to extend a reduction in worker payroll taxes. Long-time Congressional supporters of the public safety D Block spectrum plan managed to insert the spectrum language within the payroll tax legislation, part of an amendment to auction off a block of spectrum now assigned to television broadcasters. Under the plan agreed to by Congressional negotiators on Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would auction off the TV band spectrum to commercial companies, raising up to $16 billion. The FCC would assign the D Block of spectrum to public safety, and Congress would allocate about $6 billion of the auction proceeds to build the nationwide public safety network. The legislation also includes several other public safety sections, including funding for radio and NG911 projects. If the legislation passes, it might take the FCC several years to hold the auction and for radio network funding to become available to public safety. Read reaction to the proposal from two public safety groups after the break. Download (pdf) a copy of the proposed legislation (see Section 6000).



Washington, DC, February 16, 2012 – Today, the Public Safety Alliance (PSA) applauds Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV-D), House Speaker John Boehner (OH-R), and the bipartisan House and Senate Conferees to the Payroll Tax Reduction Extension legislation that provides for a much needed nationwide interoperable Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN). This bill includes the allocation of D Block spectrum and an estimated $7 billion in funding from the proceeds of incentive auctions for its successful implementation. Creation of a nationwide 20 MHz PSBN is one of the last remaining recommendations of the 9/11 Commission made in the wake of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Congress is expected to vote the bill through both the House and the Senate by Friday, and have it on the President’s desk for signature and final enactment next week. The White House has consistently urged inclusion of public safety broadband and comprehensive spectrum legislation as part of the overall package, and has indicated its strong support for enactment.

Members of the Public Safety Alliance (PSA), which represents nine of the major national public safety associations, are elated by the bicameral, bipartisan leadership and support Congress has provided in successfully negotiating this solution. This legislation will modernize the emergency communications capabilities to better protect our citizens who are served by the more than 2 million first responders across the nation. Further by leveraging commercial technologies, Public Safety will be effective stewards of a scarce national asset, spectrum. This will result in future taxpayer savings at every level of government through more efficient use of spectrum. Most importantly, Congress and the Administration are making America safer as law enforcement, fire, emergency medical, emergency management and other public safety personnel finally obtain the communications tools they need to better protect our citizens and respond to emergencies each and every day.

The PSA applauds the inclusion of long sought after funding for Next Generation (NG) 9-1-1 implementation as part of the bill, and the designation of critical funding for future research and development which is necessary to support expedited development of mission-critical voice capabilities over broadband. Taken together with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) National Broadband Plan, this legislation provides public safety with a clear blueprint for realizing comprehensive interoperability of our emergency communications nationwide, and secures the path forward for public safety communications for decades to come.

APCO Applauds Congress on a Bipartisan Effort to Provide Public Safety with the Spectrum, Funding and Authority to Launch a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network

WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 16, 2012 — As part of a major legislative package for the extension of payroll tax relief and unemployment benefits, House and Senate conferees have come to an agreement that will provide public safety with the spectrum, funding and authority necessary to launch a long overdue nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network. While other legislative details of the larger package remain to be worked out, negotiators have signaled agreement on the allocation of D Block to public safety and related funding and governance provisions.

“APCO International thanks our congressional supporters on both sides of the aisle in both chambers of Congress for their dedication to responsibly achieving the build out of a Public Safety Broadband Network and in supporting Next Generation 9-1-1 technologies,” said Gregg Riddle, APCO International President. “We pledge our full cooperation in the implementation of this legislation for the betterment of our nation’s security and look forward to working with these dedicated congressional leaders in the future on important legislation to public safety and the citizens we serve.”

APCO specifically applauds the tireless dedication on this issue of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-WV) and Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI6), Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR2) and Ranking Members Henry Waxman (D-CA30) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA14).

“This is a momentous legislative achievement for our first responders and the citizens they serve with credit going to the Commerce Committee leadership in both the House and Senate and extending as well to the unwavering support of the Homeland Security Committee leadership in both chambers, the Obama Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, the nation’s governors, state legislators, state chief information officers, county executives, mayors and the police, sheriff, fire, emergency medical service and 9-1-1 communications professionals throughout the country,” said Richard Mirgon, APCO International Past President and liaison to the Public Safety Alliance. “This compromise is a victory for the citizens of the United States that will enhance mission-critical communications in a flexible and responsible way that supports nationwide interoperability and efficient use of available spectrum.”

Based on the details available at press time, the bipartisan compromise provides for the allocation of D Block to public safety to be governed through an independent board under the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), funding of $7 billion for the build out of the network to come from proceeds of incentive auctions of spectrum, and the eventual give-back of spectrum in the 470-512 MHz or T-Band on a projected 11-year timetable for clearance of the channels with the costs supported for the relocation of these licensees. The legislation also includes funding for Next Generation 9-1-1 technologies.

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