The Department of Homeland Security had a message for House lawmakers on Thursday: Give airwaves to public safety.
A DHS official testifying at a House hearing lobbied for the administration's stance on a public safety network for emergency responders, which has yet to win congressional approval.
"The administration is fully committed to working with Congress to ensure the passage of legislation that meets the critical national need of establishing a public safety broadband network," Chris Essid, director of the emergency communications office at DHS, told a House Homeland Security subpanel.
The administration wants Congress to devote a valuable chunk of spectrum known as the D Block to public safety agencies so they can build a national communications network. But some House Republicans would prefer to auction those airwaves to industry and build the the network with other frequencies.
The push from DHS comes as spectrum legislation remains held up over this dispute. Legislation could still potentially move through the commerce committees or through the super committee if lawmakers manage to break through the D Block divide.
That could be tough. Congressional Research Service telecom specialist Linda Moore, testifying at the hearing, pointed out the network dispute is rooted in disagreements on the role of government.
"Bills that have been introduced in the 112th Congress show a great deal of cohesion about the need for a nationwide network and what type of support it should provide to public safety agencies, but little agreement about the roles that different federal agencies would play in the deployment and operation of the network," she said in written remarks.