Federal lawmakers need to reallocate 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety to be used in a nationwide LTE network for first responders, the original head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said yesterday during a press conference conducted by the Public Safety Alliance.

“I believe very, very strongly that it’s about time that the Congress of the United States listened to the 9/11 Commission and allocated the D Block, so that our first responder can have a nationwide public-safety [communications] capability,” former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge said during the press conference. “The access to voice and video and data not only will enable them to save their lives … but the lives of people who are affected by the fire, the accident, the natural disaster or the terrorist attack.”

Ridge noted that there is bipartisan support for reallocating to public safety the D Block, the 10 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum that would be auctioned to commercial operators under current law but has been the subject of significant lobbying efforts during the past two years.

“Now is the time. It’s an investment that will make America safer, more secure and far more resilient,” Ridge said. “As this Congress struggles mightily to find a single issue where they can project to the public a sense of unity and national purpose in a bipartisan way, this is the issue.”

A bill that would reallocate the D Block to public safety — S.911 — has been approved by the Senate Commerce Committee but has been scheduled to be considered for a vote by the full Senate. In the House, public-safety officials are anticipating that Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will introduce legislation this week, although most first-responder representatives do not believe the bill will include D Block reallocation. As of press time, Walden’s bill had not been introduced, according to Beltway sources.

Meanwhile, public safety’s position for D Block allocation was bolstered today by formal support from the 911 Industry Alliance (9IA) and TechAmerica, an organization that counts about 1,000 technology companies as members.

“Allocating the D Block bolsters our nation’s public safety capabilities and will create good, well-paying jobs for our industry,” Kevin Richards, TechAmerica’s senior vice president of federal government relations, said in a prepared statement. “But most importantly, allocating the D Block will help save lives while fulfilling Congress’s duty to provide our nation’s first responders with the interoperable, state-of-the-art network they truly deserve in the wake of Hurricane Irene, the East Coast earthquake, and the 10th anniversary of 9/11.”