From Broadcasting & Cable: House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) says that the country can auction D-block spectrum and still give first responders the interoperable emergency communications network they need. He pledges to make that happen.

In an op-ed published Monday in B&C and Multichannel News, he says that debate has become "mired in a false choice between providing for commercial users and providing for our nation's first responders." He says Congress is ready to help those first responders better manage and coordinate their existing spectrum allocation, but asks: "Does it make sense to give that community even more spectrum from the D-block? Or would it be better utilized elsewhere in the marketplace where the need appears greater, if the natural disasters of late are any indicator?" Now that the DTV transition is complete, he writes, public safety should be able to use the spectrum already set aside for it in the 2005 DTV Transition and Public Safety Act.

Walden was putting in a plug for his spectrum legislation, which would auction the D-block to commercial users, saying that is the way to "kick-start" the economy. "To do otherwise would cost federal taxpayers the $2.7 billion the Congressional Budget Office has attributed to auction of the D-block. That's money that we need right now to reduce the deficit." While police and fire chiefs have been pushing for allocation, Walden suggested they should be focused on the spectrum they have already been given by Congress. "A few public safety officials have started using some portions of the 24 MHz," he says. "They are not doing so in a nationally coordinated fashion, however. They are also using some of that spectrum for old-fashioned, narrowband voice networks. The sooner all first responders start fully utilizing the spectrum, as well as migrate from narrowband voice to broadband, the better." Read the entire article here.