The US House Spectrum bill appears stalled. The key issue centers on whether or not to reallocate the 700 MHz D-block to public safety. Most Republicans prefer to auction that spectrum, while Democrats prefer to give spectrum to public safety officials.
Greg Walden, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hoped to narrow the differences on spectrum legislation. “For five months, we have been negotiating in earnest to find common ground on spectrum reform,” said Walden in a press release yesterday.
The Republican version offered by Walden would maintain current law and auction the D-block for shared public/private use. Commercial providers would build the network. Public safety has already been given plenty of spectrum for their network, according to Walden.
First-responders fear that a write up will not include a provision to allocate the D Block of spectrum exclusively to them, reports The Hill.
“The average teenager with a smartphone has more capabilities than us, and that’s just wrong,” Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey said on a teleconference Monday to push for the legislation.
That’s reality. Smartphones are changing how departments can respond to emergencies, but connecting to a tower 10-12 miles away may not deliver reliable wireless broadband.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said yesterday that federal lawmakers need to reallocate 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety. The press conference was conducted by the Public Safety Alliance.
The Public Safety Alliance resists the concept of shared spectrum. They want Congress to pay for a dedicated nationwide broadband wireless network. The $12-$15 Billion network would be funded by auctioning off unused television frequencies. Motorola and Verizon Wireless have also formed an alliance to promote a first responder LTE network and strongly oppose any spectrum auction.
Most public-safety officials expressed support for S.911, Rockefeller’s bill to reallocate the D Block to public safety. It was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee but was not scheduled to be considered for a vote by the full Senate.
Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) is expected to push spectrum legislation that would auction the D-block to commercial users, saying that is the way to “kick-start” the economy.
“To do otherwise would cost federal taxpayers the $2.7 billion the Congressional Budget Office has attributed to auction of the D-block. That’s money that we need right now to reduce the deficit.”
Walden thinks the commercial sector needs more spectrum and should get it, reports Broadcasting and Cable. “If we want the innovation that has put the Internet in the palm of your hand to both continue for the commercial sector and embrace public safety users, Congress must address the need for additional spectrum for commercial networks and development of the existing 24 MHz for first responders,” he says, pledging to make that happen.
S.911, the Senate bill sponsored by Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) would have allocated $12 billion in funding. Those proceeds would have come from auctioning off unused television frequencies. Any remainder would go to paying off the debt.
Putting LTE on 700 MHz police relays sounds good – but don’t expect broadband data to reach everyone within a 10-15 mile radius. Six 700 MHz land/mobile radio towers (similar to the Portland map, above), can’t substitute for dozens of 700 MHz commercial celltowers without sacrificing capacity and speed.
Now that the Obama administration has come around to APCO’s position on the need for a dedicated public safety network, the Republicans have now switched sides and are now blocking the proposal for a nationwide network.
If the House is unable to come up with a bipartisan bill, then authorization for a spectrum auction may wind up as a line item from the “super committee” currently working to come up with deficit reduction measures.
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