Public safety positioning for 2011 D Block push
With Congress expected to adjourn as early as next week, public-safety representatives seeking reallocation of the 700 MHz D Block broadband spectrum for first-responder use are beginning to focus their efforts on preparing for the new Congress that will convene for the first time next month.
Early this year, most Beltway observers expected the FCC to actively pursue auctioning the D Block spectrum to commercial operators during the first half of 2011. However, persistent lobbying by public-safety organizations — supported by the “Big 7” organizations representing state and local government entities — turned the political tide during the year.
Bills that would reallocate the D Block to public safety were introduced in both the House and the Senate, with one piece of legislation being sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Currently, there are seven co-sponsors in the Senate and 81 co-sponsors in the House, but none of the bills have even been the subject of a committee vote, said Yucel Ors, director of legislative affairs for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).
“As far as anything happening [this year with D Block] legislation … miracles still do happen, but I don’t think they will this time,” he said.
However, public-safety officials have been told that legislation reallocating the D Block and providing funding for the buildout and operation of public-safety LTE networks nationwide will be reintroduced next month. In the interim, public-safety representatives will continue their efforts to educate lawmakers about the issues surrounding 700 MHz LTE broadband networks for first responders, Ors said.
“Basically, the goal is to line up co-sponsor for the bills this year, so we can move quickly to next year with as many co-sponsors as possible,” he said.