D Block language may be included in multiple bills
Public-safety representatives continue to be hopeful that the 700 MHz D Block spectrum will be reallocated to first responders and that funding will be provided to pay for a much-anticipated LTE network for public safety, but a clear path for approval has not yet emerged.
While it remains possible that standalone House spectrum legislation could be passed, there is increasing speculation on Capitol Hill that the D Block language will be included in other bills, such as an omnibus appropriations bill or legislation that would extend the payroll tax.
“It changes by the minute and the hour,” said Harlin McEwen, representative for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).
Public-safety representatives certainly would welcome D Block reallocation and funding that is enacted, whether it is in a standalone spectrum bill or part of a larger piece of legislation, particularly if attaching the language to larger legislation accelerates the approval process in the House.
A House subcommittee last week approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) that would reallocate the 700 MHz D Block to public safety, provide at least $5 billion in funding for the deployment of a nationwide LTE network for first responders. However, that legislation calls for public safety to return its 700 MHz narrowband spectrum to the FCC in the future and has a governance model that has been questioned by many public-safety representatives.
In the Senate, the Senate Commerce Committee has approved S.911 — bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) — that would reallocate the D Block to public safety and provide more than $10 billion in funding for the deployment of a nationwide LTE network. That bill has not been scheduled for a vote by the full Senate, and most Beltway sources indicate that such a vote is unlikely before the end of the year.
The Public Safety Alliance (PSA) today issued a press release reiterating its support for S.911 and noted that the first-responder community is united on the issue.
“Let me assure you that there is no distance between the position of sheriffs, chiefs of police, fire chiefs, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, law-enforcement officers, emergency managers, governors, mayors, county executives and public technologists,” Paul Fitzgerald, president of the National Sheriffs’ Association, said in prepared statement. “There has never been such a level of shared priority and unity as we have today.”