Public safety prepares Capitol Hill push for D Block
Representatives for a coalition of first-responder organizations will visit Capitol Hill on Wednesday, where they will display their public-safety vehicles and visit with federal lawmakers to seek support for legislation that would reallocate the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety for broadband use.
By law, the 10 MHz D Block is slated for commercial use, with the FCC planning to conduct an auction of the airwaves next year. But the Public Safety Alliance and other organization have asked Congress to reallocate the D Block to public safety, so the spectrum can be combined with the adjacent public-safety broadband spectrum licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) to provide the spectral foundation for a nationwide broadband wireless network for public safety.
“We’ll continue advocating for our position,” said Dick Mirgon, president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO). “It’s about educating folks and creating a presence out there that brings attention to public safety and our issue.”
As of last week, there were at least 44 sponsors for legislation introduced in the House of Representatives that would reallocate the D Block to public safety. First-responder officials “fully anticipate” there will be at least 50 sponsors of the bill by Wednesday, Mirgon said.
"This is about keeping the momentum going,” he said. “We feel that we have clearly got an upward momentum with additional support almost daily, whether it’s a member of Congress or another association.”
Currently, no parallel legislation proposing to reallocate the D Block to public safety has been introduced in the Senate, but Mirgon said public safety has had discussions with senators and will have more on Wednesday and beyond.
“There are people within the Senate that are interested in our issue,” Mirgon said.
FCC officials have advocated auctioning the D Block for commercial purposes, citing the need for greater competition in the commercial wireless industry and an agency study indicating that the PSST block would provide enough spectrum to serve public safety in almost all emergency scenarios. In cases of extreme emergency incidents or disasters, the FCC plan calls for public safety to roam on broadband wireless networks of commercial carriers operating in the 700 MHz band.