O N L I N E E X C L U S I V E
Readers Say D Block Bill Not Best Option for Public Safety
December 14, 2011
Last week, MissionCritical Communications polled its readers for their opinion on Rep. Greg Walden’s spectrum legislation. Rep. Walden’s Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act of 2011 was voted out of subcommittee Dec. 1 and last week was added to H.R. 3630, a payroll tax bill that passed the House Dec. 13.
Nearly 67 percent of readers said the bill is not the best solution for public safety. About 28 percent said it’s a good bill for public safety except 700 MHz network managers. About 5 percent didn’t know enough about the bill to decide. No one said it’s a good bill for all public safety.
Under the legislation, public safety must give back its 700 MHz narrowband spectrum five years after public-safety voice over broadband standards are in place. In addition, the bill provides up to $6.5 billion to help build a public-safety interoperable broadband network and reduce the deficit by about $15 billion. Public safety has said a nationwide broadband network will cost $10 billion.
The legislation also includes a governance model for the public-safety broadband network that public-safety groups have called “unworkable” and “unaccountable.” The model includes establishing a Public Safety Communications Planning Board composed of federal officials, commercial carriers and vendor representatives, and public-safety state and local officials. It would also require each state that wants to be part of the nationwide broadband network to create a state public-safety broadband office for governance and grant administration.
The legislation provides the FCC authority to conduct incentive auctions, whereby TV broadcasters would voluntarily give up spectrum to be auctioned, with a $3 billion fund to cover relocation expenses.
The Senate is expected to vote on the payroll tax bill by the end of the week. Public safety prefers the Senate version of the D block bill, S.911, passed by the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this year.
The spectrum provisions in the tax bill could be taken out and voted on separately or passed within the bill. The public-safety communications community is urging officials to contact their senators and ask them to “oppose any give-back of public safety’s existing 700 MHz narrowband spectrum.”
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