Federal lawmakers aren’t expressing much support for the notion of dedicating the proceeds of a proposed 700 MHz D Block auction next year to help fund the deployment of a nationwide public-safety broadband network in the band, according to a public-safety Capitol Hill representative.

Yucel Ors, director of legislative affairs for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), said he is not optimistic that Congress will appropriate the $6.5 billion in grant money that the FCC requested to help fund the buildout of an LTE network for first responders.

During a March subcommittee hearing on the FCC’s national broadband plan, two key lawmakers — Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the House subcommittee on communications, technology and the Internet, and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House energy and commerce committee — said they are working together to draft legislation that would appropriate most, if not all, proceeds from the commercial D Block auction to help pay for the proposed nationwide, broadband wireless network for first responders.

To date, no such legislation has been introduced. If it is introduced, such a bill likely would face significant opposition, according to Ors.

“If there is a precedent set that they’re going to start allocating the money for various specific projects, members of Congress are not very supportive of that,” Ors said. “It defeats the purpose of the auctions [from a federal funding perspective], which is to put money into the Treasury.”

President Obama’s proposed federal budget includes $3 billion in D Block auction proceeds as a revenue item, and that line item likely will be included in the budget Congress passes for the 2011 fiscal year, Ors said.

“A number of times I’ve gone up there to talk about this issue with some the Congressional staff, and they always came back with, ‘Where are you going to offset the cost of building [the 700 MHz broadband network] out in the budget?’” he said.

In addition, current budget proposals call for public-safety communication grant programs to be restructured, with an overall cut of $1 billion from interoperability grant programs compared to the current year, Ors said.

“Not only are we going to have to fight to get that money back into the budget, we’re going to have to fight for an additional $6 billion to build a broadband network [under the FCC’s national broadband plan],” he said. “Actually, getting the spectrum is a lot easier than getting the funding.”

Ors also reiterated the position taken by APCO, most national public-safety organizations and most national associations representing state and local government officials that the D Block should be reallocated to public safety instead of being auctioned for commercial use.

With the D Block and the 10 MHz of public-safety broadband spectrum licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), public safety would have 20 MHz for its network. Without the D Block, public safety would have 10 MHz of spectrum for its network, which likely would limit the network to purely public-safety use instead of also being able to develop partnerships with other critical infrastructure entities — other government agencies, utilities and health-care facilities, for example—that could be supported on a 20 MHz network, Ors said.

FCC officials have said they are not convinced that public safety needs more than 10 MHz for its network. If additional spectrum is needed, the agency has vowed to find airwaves in other bands to address such a need. But such a spectrum allocation after the network is built would be in a different band, which would create new and expensive challenges, Ors said.

“It’s going to ultimately increase cost. It’s going to create different systems. It’s going to cause problems with interoperability,” he said. “It’s going to recreate what we have with land-mobile radio.”

Under the FCC plan, the D Block would be auctioned early next year. With most members of Congress running for re-election in the fall, educating Capitol Hill about the issues surrounding the FCC’s 700 MHz proposal will be a top priority during the next several weeks, Ors said.

A bill to reallocate the D Block to public safety has been introduced in the House, but it has not been scheduled for a hearing yet, Ors said.