Public safety goes to Washington for D Block, broadband network
Public-safety officials representing nine national organizations yesterday expressed encouragement that federal lawmakers and policy-makers understand the need for a dedicated wireless broadband network for first responders but remain unsure whether their request to have the 700 MHz D Block reallocated to public safety will be granted.
“I think all of us in public safety that were here in Washington [yesterday] feel better about — if not the prospects for the D Block — certainly that the message was heard that public safety needs a dedicated public-safety wireless broadband network,” said Chris Moore, deputy chief for the San Jose (Calif.) Police Cepartment and chairman of the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCC) spectrum working group.
Representatives of the public-safety organizations met with the FCC, the NTIA, the Department of Justice and lawmakers on Capitol Hill in an effort to gain support for the notion of reallocating the 10 MHz D Block — currently set to be auctioned to commercial operators — to public safety. Such a maneuver would allow the D Block to be coupled with the 10 MHz of public-safety airwaves licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) to provide the spectral foundation for a national broadband network for first-response agencies.
Moore characterized the group’s meeting with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski as “very positive.”
“[Genachowski] indicated that the national broadband plan would be coming out March 17 and that the public safety and homeland security bureau was working diligently to make sure that our needs were addressed in some fashion,” Moore said. “He acknowledged our efforts to reallocate the D Block and said that truly is not within his power to change, because that’s going to be a decision made by Congress.”
With that in mind, the group met with staff members for five senators and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. But perhaps the most significant meeting of the day was an audience with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that likely would have to recommend the D Block reallocation for the notion to become law.
“[Waxman] said he absolutely understood the scenario and the concern, and he agrees that we have to solve the interoperability problem,” Moore said. “He’s very supportive of our efforts; however, that’s not the same thing as supporting a reallocation of the D Block — he most decidedly did not say that. But he was very, very positive and very encouraging.”
San Jose Police Chief Robert Davis echoed this sentiment.
“[Waxman] is very well aware of the issues we’re trying to confront,” Davis said during a press conference telecast on CSPAN. “I think he gets it, and he understands the importance of what we’re trying to do.”
Davis said the public-safety group was told by federal officials repeatedly that establishing a nationwide, interoperable public-safety network would be difficult, but he described the project as one that must be done, because “we do not have the option of not being able to communicate with each other.”
“There’s no doubt in our minds that the administration and the people here in Washington want the same thing we want — we’re all on the same page,” Davis said. “[But] we still do not have the ability to talk with each other … and that’s unacceptable eight years after 9/11.”