D Block legislation vote not expected by 9/11 anniversary
Federal lawmakers likely will not vote on D Block legislation until at least late September, as Congress is expected to focus its attention on other issues first upon its return to Capitol Hill next week, according to public-safety communication sources.
Many public-safety officials had expressed hope throughout the summer that bills reallocating the 700 MHz D Block — 10 MHz of spectrum that is due to be auctioned to commercial operators, under current law—to public safety and providing $10 billion or more to fund a first-responder LTE network throughout the nation would be voted upon by Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
“Clearly, they’re not inclined to want to act before Sept. 11,” said Richard Mirgon, former president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.
Harlin McEwen, chairman of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust, echoed this sentiment, saying he believes Congress would not be able to pass D Block legislation until late September, at the earliest.
Many Beltway sources have expressed optimism that the Senate could pass a D Block-reallocation bill relatively soon, because legislation co-sponsored by Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) was approved by a committee convincingly and has significant verbal support throughout the Senate. However, copyright legislation is expected to be considered first when the Senate returns from recess next Tuesday, Mirgon said.
Public-safety officials expect to encounter considerably more opposition in the House, but a hearing on the matter is expected in mid-September, Mirgon said.
“We may not have as much momentum as we would have hoped to have a month ago, the fact is that we still have momentum,” he said. “We’re still moving forward. We’re not losing ground, and we’re not going away.”
During the past week, Washington D.C., has felt tremors from an earthquake and the impact of Hurricane Irene — the type of conditions that a dedicated, public-safety-grade network envisioned in proposed legislation would be designed to work, Mirgon said.
“The earthquake clearly demonstrated the lack of capacity within the commercial networks to deal with public safety during significant events,” he said. “Shortly after, the hurricane has shown the lack of resilience in the networks, because there are still parts of the affected areas that have no cell service or 911 service. The fact is that public-safety radio networks are still working, and there are many segments of commercial carriers that have failed. We’re not aware of one public-safety network that has failed.
“If these two incidents don’t make our point, I’m not too sure what has to happen to make it.”