Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V) yesterday introduced legislation that would reallocate the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety to support operation of a proposed nationwide wireless broadband networks for first responders. (View the current bill summary and status of S. 3756.)

Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Rockefeller last month announced his intention to propose legislation on the same day that Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) introduced a bill that would reallocate the D Block — 10 MHz of spectrum that must be auctioned to commercial operators under current law — to public safety and provide $11 billion to help fund the public-safety network.

Rockefeller's legislation calls for D Block allocation, FCC authority to conduct incentive auctions, the use of auction proceeds to pay for the construction and maintenance of the public-safety network, and the FCC to establish standards that would allow public-safety agencies to lease capacity on the network to non-public-safety entities such as other government entities and commercial operators.

"Radio spectrum is a very valuable resource," Rockefeller said in a prepared statement. "It can grow our economy and put new and innovative wireless services in the hands of consumers and businesses. It can enhance our public safety by fostering communications between first responders when the unthinkable occurs. But it is also scarce. That is why we need forward-thinking spectrum policy that promotes smart use of our airwaves — and provides public safety officials with the wireless resources they need to keep us safe.

In addition to the Senate bills that would reallocate the D Block to public safety, House legislation that would reallocate the D Block to first responders has 68 co-sponsors, said Yucel Ors, director of legislative affairs for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), during an interview with Urgent Communications.

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