D Block included in House payroll-tax legislation
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) today introduced a bill that would extend the payroll tax cut and includes spectrum language that would reallocate the 700 MHz D Block to public safety and provide at least $5 billion in funding for the buildout of a nationwide LTE network for first responders.
Public-safety communications language in the bill is similar to the legislation approved by a House subcommittee last week, according to Beltway sources and media reports. Sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), that bill calls for the D Block to be reallocated to public safety and would provide $5 billion to $6.5 billion in funding for the deployment of a dedicated nationwide LTE network for first responders.
While the D Block and funding are key components to the nationwide-network vision that first responders support, Walden 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 a letter to the bipartisan leadership of the House Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) expressed support for the governance model included in S.911 — the bill sponsored by Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) that passed the Senate Commerce Committee — and opposition to public safety being forced to return its 700 MHz narrowband spectrum.
“After a difficult struggle with broadcasters and numerous delays, public safety only recently obtained access to this spectrum,” McCain stated in his letter. “Since its availability in 2009, 35 states and 10,000 licensees have started using this spectrum.
“To force public safety to give up critical communications capabilities is wholly irresponsible and dangerous. I do not oppose having public safety return some spectrum allocated to it in return for the allocation of the D Block; however, I do not support language that requires public safety to return spectrum in the 700 MHz [band] that they fought for over many years.”
While spectrum language — including the reauthorization of the FCC to conduct spectrum auctions — is included in the Boehner bill, it is one of several components. Extension of the payroll tax cut is the primary focus of the legislation, and that item has bipartisan support. Without an extension of that tax cut, U.S. workers will see their monthly take-home pay decrease by 2% beginning in January, according to media reports.
However, other aspects of the legislation are expected to be the subject of contentious debate. Language that would enable the construction of a controversial oil pipeline that would extend from Canada to Texas is opposed by the Obama administration. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would not approve the bill, if the House passed a version that included the pipeline language.