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Congress

Rockefeller Calls For Action On Public Safety Bill

May 12, 2011

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Thursday made another pitch for his legislation aimed at creating a national interoperable broadband network for public safety officials.

In a conference call with reporters, Rockefeller said he would like to move the bill by June so he can achieve his goal of enacting legislation before the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

His bill, which he introduced in January, would reallocate a chunk of spectrum known as the D-block for the creation of a national broadband public safety network. The commission that investigated the 2001 attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon called for the creation of such a network given the difficulties first responders to those attacks experienced.

"To me its disgraceful and embarrassing and costly to our country that since the Sept. 11 of 2001 that we have done nothing to really change the way our public safety officials can communicate," Rockefeller said.

To help pay for building such a network, the bill also authorizes the Federal Communications Commission to conduct incentive auctions. Such auctions are aimed at persuading current spectrum holders such as broadcasters to give up some of their spectrum.

Rockefeller said he also envisions having some money left over for deficit reduction, which he acknowledged could help attract some GOP lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who have resisted calls to re-allocate the D-block for public safety. Under current law, the FCC is required to auction that spectrum for commercial bidders.

He noted that he is working on the issue with Commerce ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who has introduced her own spectrum legislation.

Meanwhile, top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday touted a new study from the Government Accountability Office that examines how the government currently manages its spectrum resources.

"The GAO report underlines the urgency for Congress to focus immediately on spectrum policy," Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said in a statement. "We should act promptly in a bipartisan manner to authorize incentive auctions, start the construction of a nationwide public safety broadband network, and conduct vigorous oversight of federal and commercial spectrum utilization."

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