Obama includes D Block allocation, funding in jobs bill
President Barack Obama included reallocating the 700 MHz D Block spectrum and providing $7 billion to fund a nationwide LTE network for public safety in the draft version of the jobs bill that was the subject of last week’s speech to a joint session of Congress.
The buildout of a nationwide LTE network for public safety would create more than 100,000 jobs, according to a report recently released and commissioned by the Telecommunications Industry Association.
“Clearly, for the House Republicans, that’s their focus — getting the budget balanced, cutting down the deficit and creating jobs,” Public Safety Alliance spokesman Sean Kirkendall said. “I think it’s important that not only does this increases the security and safety of citizens and first responders, it’s important to the economy, too.”
Gregg Riddle, president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, echoed this sentiment.
“At a time when the economic outlook and job prospects in our nation are most challenging, this study provides one more critical reason for Congress to swiftly enact S.911 and allocate the D block spectrum to public safety to create a reliable, interoperable public-safety broadband network,” Riddle said in a prepared statement.
“With the 10-year remembrance of 9/11 this past week, and the continued calls for Congress to meet the 9/11 Commission’s outstanding recommendation, this report further underscores the immediate economic, as well as safety and security, need for this network, both to keep our nation safe during terrorist attacks, natural disasters and everyday emergencies, and to help spark the economy with new, positive job creation. Indeed, it begs the question: ‘What exactly is Congress waiting for before they will act on this bipartisan legislation?’”
Under the proposed legislation, the D Block — the 10 MHz of spectrum adjacent to public safety’s existing broadband spectrum that is slated to be auctioned to commercial operators under current law — would be reallocated to public safety. In addition, $7 billion in federal funds from the proceeds of future auctions would be used to support the buildout and maintenance of the much-anticipated LTE network.
The Obama administration previously expressed its support for D Block reallocation and funding for the LTE network at this level, which is less than the funding called for in S.911, the legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) that was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee.
To date, S.911 has not been scheduled to be considered by the full Senate, but most Beltway sources believe the Senate would approve it. However, there is much less certainty in the House, where the notion of D Block reallocation is expected to meet significant opposition.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) — one of the most outspoken proponents for auctioning the D Block to commercial operators — could introduce his legislative proposal as early as next week, Kirkendall said. Although public-safety officials likely will disagree with the D Block portion of a Walden proposal, many believe its introduction could create a more focused debate on Capitol Hill.
“We’re at the point right now, whether we agree with it all or not, we want to see the committee do its work and move it forward,” Kirkendall said, noting the possibility that public-safety-friendly amendments could be offered in the future. “I think that’s encouraging.”