Congress Approves D-Block for Public Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, February 17, Congress approved legislation to extend the current Social Security payroll tax rate and long-term unemployment benefits before leaving for the Presidents’ Day recess. Included in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, H.R. 3630, is a provision to allocate 10 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz bandwidth (known as the D-block) to public safety for the creation of a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network.
The D-block is adjacent to 10 MHz of spectrum currently allocated to public safety, allowing for the creation of the nationwide broadband network on 20 MHz of contiguous spectrum. The bill also provides $7 billion for construction of the network.
Earlier in the negations process, some members of Congress were calling for public safety to relinquish the 14 MHz in the 700 MHz of narrowband spectrum currently allocated for first responder communications.  After input from public safety advocates, this provision was rejected, but the legislation would require public safety to relinquish spectrum in the 470-512 MHz band (the T-Band) within nine years.
The legislation also calls for the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) to supervise the build-out and management of the public safety broadband network.
“This is an important step forward for the creation of a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network,” says Bill Webb, executive director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI).  “While public safety didn’t get everything we asked for in the agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators, there is no doubt this is a great victory for America’s fire and emergency services.  I applaud the House and Senate negotiators for putting aside partisan differences to address the needs of public safety and to address one of the last outstanding recommendations of the September 11th Commission.”
H.R. 3630 will now go to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

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