Vice President Joe Biden made another push on Thursday for giving emergency first responders the spectrum and funding they need to build a national broadband public safety network.
"You guys have been telling us now for ... 20 years that you have no band [that] is specifically dedicated for cops to be able to talk to firefighters, to be able to talk to National Guard, to be able to talk to the military, to be able to talk to anybody who responds to a genuine national emergency," Biden said during a stop at the Alexandria, Va., police department.
"After 10 years, we are finally fulfilling the promise that we have been fighting to fulfill for you for a long time."
In addition to funding to help localities rehire laid-off police officers and firefighters, the White House jobs bill sent to Congress earlier this month also includes spectrum legislation. The proposal would re-allocate a swath of spectrum known as the D-block to public safety for their broadband network and authorize funding to help build it. Under current law, the D-block is slated to be auctioned to commercial bidders.
Biden noted the communications problems that occurred during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
"We knew why there was such devastating loss among firefighters and law enforcement officers, especially in New York," Biden said. "Why? [They] couldn't communicate with each other. "
The Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation in June favored by public safety groups that also would re-allocate the D-block to public safety and authorize funding to build it. But top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have resisted giving the D-block to public safety. The committee's Communications and Technology Subcommittee is aiming to mark up its own spectrum bill next week and it's unclear at this point how the panel's leaders will deal with the D-block issue. A draft bill released by subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., in June would maintain current law on the D-block.
Biden has been vocal on the issue. He hosted a White House summit in June aimed at rallying support for the public safety network.