Reid includes D Block reallocation in debt bill
Reallocating the 700 MHz D Block to public safety and providing $7 billion in funding to build a nationwide broadband network for first responders are among the provisions of a debt-ceiling bill introduced this week by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
D Block reallocation and LTE network funding are key components of several pieces of legislation on Capitol Hill, and S. 911 — sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) — has been approved by the Senate Commerce Committee. However, with lawmakers’ attention focused on bills to address the nation’s deficit issues, the inclusion of the provisions in Reid’s proposal is significant, said Richard Mirgon, former president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).
“Fundamentally, we’re very pleased with the fact that Sen. Reid has put into his debt-ceiling bill D Block reallocation and funding,” Mirgon said. “That, in itself, is a very positive note in the Senate.”
Mirgon said public-safety officials have expressed some concern with the $7 billion funding included in the Reid bill, because that figure is $4 billion less than funding called for in S. 911 — a reduction that could make it difficult to pay for LTE buildouts in rural areas of the United States. With this in mind, first-responder representatives this week are on Capitol Hill to encourage senators to vote on S. 911, he said.
“Our immediate focus is still on the Senate — get a floor vote and get it out of the Senate,” Mirgon said. “That will allow us to focus on the House.”
Public-safety issues have become 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. Language in S. 911 call for the U.S. Treasury to receive at least $10 billion from the auctions, but the Congressional Budget Office recently projected that only $6.5 billion in deficit-reduction funds would be generated by provisions in the legislation. Reid’s bill reportedly would provide $13 billion for debt reduction.