Public Safety Groups: Allocate D Block

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Public Safety Groups: Allocate D Block
Must be done immediately, any further delay is "intolerable"
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/11/2011 5:34:12 PM
Public safety organizations en masse plan to tell the House Communications Subcommittee that it is imperative they pass legislation that allocated the D block of spectrum to public safety.

While one member of the 9/11 Commission, former Republican Senator Slade Gorton, is arguing for auctioning the block, they plan to remind the committee in their testimony, a copy of which was supplied to B&C/Multi, that the chairmen of the commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, recently testified to Congress that that spectrum must be immediately allocated, saying further delay was "intolerable."

In his testimony, NYPD Deputy Chief Charles Dowd says that "every major public safety organization in the country has explicitly rejected" the alternative of auctioning the spectrum and creating a public-private partnership with the commercial entity building out and maintaining the network, but turning it over to first responders in emergencies. That is the approach Gorton is pushing.

But to allocate the spectrum, Congress has to change the DTV transition law, which required the D block of 700 MHz spectrum reclaimed from broadcasters already as part of the digital switch be auctioned, not allocated.

"The need to reallocate the D block spectrum to public safety is a view shared by agencies large and small, urban and rural, across this country," he plans to tell the committee. The Obama administration has proposed that D block allocation, paid for by incentive auctions as part of the effort to reclaim more broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband.

There are already bills that would reallocate the spectrum, including from Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), but the days in the current legislative calendar are dwindling if they want to get the legislation on the books before the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

Some Republicans, including House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) still favor the auction route.

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