Public Safety Applauds Boehner’s Inclusion of D Block Spectrum, Broadband Funding in House Payroll Tax Reduction Extension Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – December 13, 1011 – The Public Safety Alliance (PSA) today applauded the inclusion of public safety spectrum allocation and funding for a nationwide public safety broadband network in H.R. 3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011. While the public safety and state and local government communities are appreciative of the recent movement in the House on public safety spectrum as part of comprehensive year-end legislation, the PSA outlined the following prioritized concerns with Title IV of H. R. 3630:
700 MHz Narrowband Giveback – It is not reasonable to mandate that public safety vacate spectrum that is essential for mission critical voice communications, especially after hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been invested to build these networks. The Walden Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act language would require public safety to give back 14 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band, which is currently used for mission-critical narrowband voice and guard bands. Public safety has only had access to this spectrum since 2009 when broadcasters finally cleared it, and now hundreds of systems across 35 states are using it to improve the interoperability of voice communications. Under the JOBS Act language, public safety would have to vacate this spectrum five years after the proposed legislatively created Administrator certifies “the availability of standards for public safety voice over broadband.” However, this language does not require that “voice over broadband” meet “mission-critical” requirements, nor does it require that there be “public safety voice over broadband” technology commercially available at a reasonable price for public safety to purchase. In short, it would require public safety to give up critical interoperable communications capabilities without assurance that sufficient standards and technology are available to meet mission-critical first responder needs. In addition, auctioning off the guard bands likely will lead to dangerous interference on the public safety broadband network. States and localities have spent hundreds of millions of federal, state and local tax dollars to plan and build 700 MHz narrowband networks in the past five years, and cannot justify abandoning them without a proven, field tested and commercially available alternative, something that has not yet been shown to even be achievable. This legislative proposal not only threatens the existence of hundreds of current systems using 700 MHz narrowband voice channels but will stifle any further development of urgently needed new mission critical voice systems currently being planned for this band.
“Administrator” Governance model – The PSA strongly objects to provisions of the Walden JOBS bill that would set up a third-party Administrator at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration within the United States Department of Commerce. This “Administrator” looks much too similar to the administrator process that has been used in the 800 MHz rebanding process, which continues to be burdensome, costly and contentious. The Walden JOBS bill would establish a Public Safety Communications Planning Board, but it is not clear that the Administrator would be accountable to the Board, public safety end-users or anybody else. Public safety supports the not-for-profit corporation envisioned in the bipartisan Rockefeller-Hutchison spectrum bill (S. 911), which would oversee construction and operation of the network. Under the S. 911 model, public safety and state and local governments would be represented on the board, which ensures better accountability. Both industry and public safety have experienced very costly processes and other negative results with the administrator model being utilized for the current 800 MHz rebanding initiative and neither group wishes to repeat those experiences.
Funding of the Public Safety Broadband Network – The Walden JOBS bill proposes funding the build-out of the public safety broadband network with $5 billion dollars derived from incentive and other spectrum auctions. An additional $1.5 billion could go toward building the network, based on a formula whereby public safety would be awarded an additional 10% of any revenue generated from auctions above the CBO estimate of $24.5 billion, for a total of up to $6.5 billion. S.1040; the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011, as introduced by Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, proposes $10 billion for the network build-out, and S.911; the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act of 2011 proposes $11 billion. The PSA believes funding must be higher than the Walden JOBS bill provides to ensure expedited build out, especially in rural America.
The Public Safety Alliance has reiterated its support for S.911, a bipartisan bill that was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in June. The PSA urges the House to pass legislation that includes D block allocation to public safety along with sufficient funding, and that does not include damaging provisions related to 700 MHz narrowband give-back or an unworkable, unaccountable private entity “administrator” governance model. Additionally, the PSA urges Congress to continue to allow states and localities maximum flexibility in utilizing “secondary use” and private and public partnerships that best meet their specific needs to assure sustainment of their mission-critical public safety broadband systems.
For more information on a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network, visit www.psafirst.org.
About Public Safety Alliance
The Public Safety Alliance is a partnership of the nation’s leading public safety associations, which includes the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, the National Emergency Management Association and the National Association of State EMS Officials. The partnership is operated as a program of APCO International. The purpose of the Public Safety Alliance is to raise awareness in Congress and the White House about what our Nation’s law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services need to build out a nationwide, interoperable, 4G, wireless communications network to protect America. For more information on the Public Safety Alliance, visit www.psafirst.org.