Lawmakers of both parties have announced separate legislation to create a nationwide public safety broadband network, reports the Washington Post.
On Tuesday, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) introduced a discussion draft of the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum bill (JOBS), which would allocate the D block of spectrum to public safety users — not auctioning off the “D-Block” spectrum for shared public/private use.
Meanwhile, Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced a separate bill, the Wireless Innovation and Public Safety Act, that would also create a nationwide public safety broadband network (text).
One main difference between the bills lies in the treatment of unlicensed spectrum. The Eshoo/Waxman bill allows for the FCC to conduct incentive auctions, giving television broadcasters an incentive to sell their spectrum and cohabitate with competitors on a “dot” channel. Walden’s bill requires that any auctioned spectrum be used for licensed purposes only.
The Senate version of a bill proposing this kind of network, S. 911, cleared the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee but has not come up for a vote in the Senate. On Tuesday, the office of committee chairman Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said that it is still trying to get provisions from that bill wrapped into a larger deficit or other omnibus package.
Sean Kirkendall of the Public Safety Alliance, which has championed the creation of the network, said Tuesday that the group has endorsed the Wireless Innovation and Public Safety Act. He added that he will also work with Walden as his draft progresses.
The size of the pot of gold at the end of the incentive auction rainbow is still anybody’s guess, says the Comm Law Blog.
Some skeptics believe a dedicated public service network is likely cost taxpayers twice as much as the $10 billion currently projected and deliver half the capability. Harris, Motorola, Raytheon, and others may have been willing to grease the wheels because the markup can be phenomenal, as much as $6,000 for a hardened smartphone.
Both bills reject the idea that commercial cellular operators could build out a shared, nationwide LTE network – on their own dime – and provide broadband for everyone.
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