It appears that Congress is poised to allocate the long awaited and long overdue public safety spectrum. Though nothing has officially been released to this point, sources close to Congress have confirmed that new legislation is being rolled out that will allocate the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety and provide $7 billion in federal funding for the deployment of a nationwide Public Safety broadband LTE network. D Block contains the 10 MHz of spectrum immediately adjacent to that which is already licensed to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) to first responders across America. The Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) will reside in the full 20 MHz of broadband spectrum necessary to meet current and future needs. Further, it appears that this will come without public safety having to forfeit its existing 700 MHz narrowband spectrum.
It is also reported that the legislation would create an independent First Responder Network Authority to develop the public safety network. The Authority will be housed under the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), but will have separate leadership, including a board with public safety, commercial, federal, state and local expertise to oversee the D-Block license and development of the network.
Additionally, the legislation includes a provision for $115 million in funding to support the build-out of Next Generation 9-1-1 technologies and reauthorization of the National 911 Office.
Senator Rockefeller, who was an instrumental player in developing this legislation and who has led the charge for allocation of the spectrum, was quoted as saying,
“This is sort of a huge day for America…Days like this don’t come around very often. This doesn’t cost the taxpayers a dime. It will save endless numbers of lives of first responders. ...With this new high-tech capability, firefighters will be able to instantaneously download floor plans before they go into the buildings to see what they’re up against. Cops will have access to criminal histories before they approach a suspect all on handheld devices which will be available at every level all across the country in one, integrated, truly national first responders communications system. EMTs will be able to communicate potentially life-saving information to doctors in the emergency room before they get there — descriptions and pictures of the wounded. It’s the best kind of reform.”
This legislation is reportedly set to be voted on in the upcoming days as part of a bill that will extend the payroll-tax cut and unemployment benefits — legislation for which there is a looming deadline and heated partisan debate.1
Download a copy of the proposed legislation (see Section 6000) here: http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20120213/CRPT-112hrpt-HR3630.pdf
There remain a number of questions; however, keep an eye on this blog for updates.
1 D-Block allocation to public safety is 'done.’ Police Senior Editor Doug Wyllie. http://www.policeone.com/police-products/communications/articles/5098920-D-Block-allocation-to-public-safety-is-done/