Representatives of nine key public-safety organizations are in Washington, D.C., this week to ask federal lawmakers and policy-makers to reallocate the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety, so the airwaves can be used as the spectral foundation for a nationwide, broadband communication network for first-response agencies.

Public-safety officials are conducting meetings today with the FCC, NTIA, the Department of Justice and lawmakers on Capitol Hill in an effort to gain support for the notion of reallocating the D Block to public safety, said Chris Moore, deputy chief for the San Jose, Calif., police department and chairman of the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCC) spectrum working group.

Under current law, the FCC is required to auction the 10 MHz D Block for commercial wireless use, but first-responder organizations want to couple the D Block with the 10 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust, so that the proposed network can better support a fourth-generation technology such as LTE.

“It’s critical that members of Congress and the administration understand how important this spectrum is to the future of public-safety communications in terms of data and voice, in the long term,” Moore said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get this spectrum in a truly interoperable band. LTE operates much more efficiently [with 20 MHz of spectrum than with 10 MHz of spectrum].”

Related issues such as funding options for the network also will be addressed during the meetings, but “the spectrum is what’s absolutely necessary before the broadband plan comes out,” Moore said.

Current law mandates that the FCC submit a national broadband plan to Congress by Feb. 17, and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said he wants to propose a D Block plan within the broadband plan. However, Genachowski last week requested that the FCC be given a one-month extension for the broadband plan, and key members of Congress reportedly have expressed support for such an extension. If granted, such an extension could provide public safety with more time to make its D Block case to Congress, Moore said.

“We encourage the FCC to take as much time as they need to get this national broadband plan right,” he said. “It does provide us a little extra time to continue our educational efforts with the administration and members on the Hill on how important public-safety broadband is.”

Organizations participating in the effort include the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCC), the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs (MFC), the National Sheriffs Association (NSA), the Major County Sheriffs Association (MCSA), the Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA).

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