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White House To Host Meeting On Public Safety Network

The White House will host a meeting Thursday with public safety representatives and other federal officials on creating a national public safety broadband network.

Vice President Biden will deliver remarks at the event. Other Obama administration officials slated to attend include White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as well as Gov. Martin O'Malley, D-Md., and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Public safety officials have been pushing policy makers to re-allocate a chunk of spectrum known as the D-block to them for the creation of a national broadband network, saying they do not have enough spectrum for such a network now. The network is aimed at ensuring that first responders can communicate with different agencies and utilize the latest technologies.

The Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation last week that would reallocate the D-block to public safety instead of auctioning it for commercial use as required by current law and establish a process for the creation of the network. President Obama came out in favor in February of reallocating the D-block to public safety officials and the White House will release a report at Thursday's meeting providing more details on its proposal to create and deploy a national public safety network.

At the end of last week's markup on his bill, Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., praised the help he had gotten from the White House on moving the bill along, noting in particular Biden's role.

The bill, however, still faces hurdles. Key Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have been resistant to reallocating the D-block to public safety officials.

Rockefeller is pushing to get his bill passed before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which exposed deep problems with communications systems used by emergency first responders. He said Tuesday that he hopes the White House meeting will provide additional momentum to get his bill to the Senate floor.

"My hope is that this meeting and efforts by other leaders on this will help get the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act to the Senate floor for a vote," Rockefeller said in a statement. "For the men and women who risk their lives running into burning buildings and chase down criminals each day without hesitation, we need to get this done."

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