Obama to announce support for D Block reallocation, public-safety funding in union address
President Barack Obama will proclaim his administration’s support for reallocating the 700 MHz D Block to public safety and using future spectrum-auction proceeds to help fund nationwide mobile broadband networks for first responders during tonight’s State of the Union speech, according public-safety officials.
Numerous public-safety officials were told of the administration’s position during a conference call this afternoon with Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, said Dick Mirgon, immediate past president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).
“They wanted to let us know that the White House was supporting reallocation of the D Block and funding through incentive auctions and that there would be a high-level statement made in the State of Union tonight relative to that,” Mirgon said during an interview. “There’s still work to be done, but this was a significant achievement today for public safety to get their support.”
Indeed, most industry observers a year ago expected the FCC to be preparing rules to conduct a commercial auction of the 700 MHz D Block this spring, as current law dictates. However, a significant political shift occurred last spring and summer, resulting in the introduction of D Block reallocation by a several members of Congress, including influential Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).
Meanwhile, FCC officials have taken no tangible steps toward auctioning the D Block to commercial operators, despite the lobbying efforts of carriers other than Verizon and AT&T.
“I believed from the beginning that this was the right issue at the right time for the right reasons, and I think that’s panning out,” Mirgon said. “People within government, when they look at this issue from a holistic sense and from a public-policy point of view to keep America safe, they agree with us that the reallocation of the D Block and funding is the right thing to do and is needed.”
Even with the administration’s support, reallocation of the D Block is not assured, Mirgon said, noting that Republicans control the House and that not all Democrats in the Senate agree with the administration on a given policy matter. Some Beltway sources have indicated that public safety could have difficulty convincing new Republicans — many of whom were elected on the promise of reducing government spending — to support a public-safety broadband program that could cost more than $10 billion.