The Public Safety Alliance will be on Capitol Hill Wednesday testifying in support of a bill (HR 607) that would authorize paying broadcasters to give up spectrum as a way to free it up for auctions that would, in turn, help pay for a national interoperable broadband network.
The hearing, "Public Safety Communications: Are the needs of our First Responders being met?" is in the House Homeland Security Committee, and the alliance's answer will be: Not until you create this network, which some have been pushing for since not long after 9/11, almost a decade ago.
Members of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, National Sheriffs' Association
and the International Association of Fire Chiefs will together "implore" Congress to pass the bill, and do so before the Sept. 11 10-year anniversary of the attacks.
The bill would allocate the so-called D block of spectrum to freed up in the DTV transition to public safety, rather than the current blueprint, in which the FCC auctions the spectrum to a private entity that creates--and pays for--the network and lets public safety use it on a priority basis. The Federal Communications Commission backed the auction route in its National Broadband Plan, but chairman Julius Genachowski has said he will support whatever gets the network built and funded as expeditiously as possible.
There is a similar bill in the Senate (S.28), re-introduced by Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) , who pushed a similar bill in the last Congress.
In January, the FCC also voted to establish a framework for the interoperable network, whenever Congress allocates the money and the spectrum can be set aside for that purpose.