Rockefeller To Hold Public Safety Net Hearing Feb. 16

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has scheduled a hearing Feb. 16 on building an interoperable emergency communications network.

Rockefeller, who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced a bill in the last Congress that would allocate spectrum for that purpose, something the White House is also backing as part of a national wireless initiative the president will talk about today in a speech in Michigan.

Broadband fans will have to divide their attention, since the hearing is scheduled for the same day as a House Communications & Internet Subcommittee hearing on the FCC's new network neutrality rules.

The FCC tried to auction spectrum to a private entity to create a public-private partnership on an interoperable network, but failed to draw a minimum bid. The FCC in its National Broadband Plan recommended trying the auction route again, but FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has since signaled that the priority is getting the network built, and the White House this week came out in support of simply giving the spectrum to first responders and funding it s operation through proceeds from spectrum auctions.

Those are the same incentive auctions that would compensate broadcasters for giving up spectrum for wireless broadband, something else the White House was stumping for this week.

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