Reallocation of the 700 MHz D Block to public safety and other spectrum-policy matters are not part of the debt-ceiling compromise that Congress and the White House reached during the weekend, according to news reports and Beltway sources.

“The D Block, funding, spectrum auctions and the whole spectrum-policy bill are all out” of legislation designed to raise the debt ceiling, so the United States does not default on its debt obligations, said Richard Mirgon, former president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).

Public-safety issues recently became part of the debt-ceiling discussion, because legislation that would reallocate the D Block to first responders also would use revenue from spectrum auctions to reduce the massive national deficit. Depending on the proposal, between $6.5 billion and $13 billion in money for the U.S. Treasury could be realized via spectrum-oriented legislation.

Debt-ceiling bills introduced last week in both the House and the Senate called for D Block reallocation and $7 billion in funding for the buildout of a nationwide LTE network on 700 MHz spectrum, but the spectrum-related items were pulled from the eventual compromise. These deficit proposals called for $4 billion less in funding than S.911, the Senate bill sponsored by Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

Mirgon said public-safety representatives continue to talk with lawmakers from both houses of Congress to include D Block reallocation and funding in debt-ceiling legislation, but he acknowledged that the scenario is unlikely at this point.

If the debt-ceiling agreement is enacted tomorrow, lawmakers are expected to recess until late this month, which would be the first opportunity for comprehensive spectrum-policy to be considered.

“We would expect that S. 911 would be taken up, we would hope, by the Senate by the last week of August,” Mirgon said.
Most Beltway sources believe S. 911 can pass the Senate and would be supported by the White House. However, such legislation is expected to meet opposition in the House.