Dingell, Green Introduce Public Safety Network Bill
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI15) and Congressman Gene Green (D-TX29) introduced H.R. 2482, the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act. Importantly, this bill will establish the framework for the deployment of a nationwide, interoperable, wireless broadband network for public safety. It will also allocate the D-Block to public safety outright and free of charge.
“It is disgraceful that nearly 10 years after 9/11, our country’s first responders have neither sufficient spectrum nor a national interoperable network to use in saving American lives,” said Dingell. “To fix that problem, my good friend, Gene Green, and I have introduced the House companion to Senators Rockefeller and Hutchison’s very thoughtful and bipartisan public safety bill, S. 911. We hope our bill will help speed the Congress’s work on this matter to a successful conclusion before September of this year.”
“We have discussed establishing a national interoperable public safety network for nearly a decade now,” said Green. “It has been nearly 10 years since 9/11 and three years since Hurricane Ike struck Houston. The time for talk is over, and the time for action is now. Public safety needs the resources the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act will give them in order to do their jobs more safely and effectively, all while protecting American lives.”
Importantly, the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act differs from S. 911 with respect to the breadth of authority granted to the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a voluntary incentive auction of broadcaster spectrum. While the Dingell/Green bill seeks to tackle the Nation’s growing need for wireless spectrum, it also makes explicit that the Commission may conduct only one incentive auction, that broadcasters not be coerced into relinquishing spectrum, that broadcasters be fully compensated for costs associated with repacking, and that if broadcasters are repacked they maintain the same capabilities and broadcasting footprint that they had prior to the auction. Similarly, Congressmen Dingell and Green have sought answers from the Federal Communications Commission about the effects of broad incentive auction authority on consumers and broadcasters but have received little assurance that such effects will not be far-reaching and negative. The Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act addresses this by incorporating the protections mentioned above.
“Although I recognize the country’s growing need for spectrum, that spectrum should not be forcibly and unfairly taken from broadcasters, which also would negatively impact consumers,” said Dingell. “Our bill ensures that a voluntary incentive auction will be truly voluntary and provide a fair opportunity to grow the Nation’s wireless spectrum inventory.”
“It is true that our country’s consumers and wireless companies need more spectrum,” added Green. “That spectrum, however, cannot be unfairly taken from broadcasters, who provide free, over-the-air, local programming to all Americans. It is important to remember the broadcasters play an important role in emergency preparedness by transmitting critical information when cellular networks are down. Broadcasters also promote diversity in the media marketplace through local programming. In short, without the protections we have incorporated into this bill, broadcasters across the country that do not affirmatively decide to exit the marketplace may be forced out without so much as a say in the matter. That’s just plain unfair and also harms the public interest.”
In summary, the legislation will:
- Establish a framework for the deployment of a nationwide, interoperable, wireless broadband network for public safety
- Allocate 10 megahertz of spectrum, known as the “D-Block,” to public safety;
- Direct the Federal Communications Commission to establish standards that allow public safety officials, when not using the network, to lease capacity on a secondary, but preemptible, basis to non-public safety entities;
- Permit the Commission to conduct a one-time voluntary incentive auction of broadcast frequencies. The Commission is prohibited from involuntarily reclaiming frequencies licensed to broadcasters, as well as revoking the licenses of broadcasters or otherwise penalizing them for not taking part in the incentive auction. The Commission’s authority is subject to conditions related to the treatment of low-power television stations, repacking, collocation, and reimbursement of costs for licensees directly or indirectly affected by the incentive auction; and
- Mandate that surplus revenue from spectrum auctions be deposited in the U.S. Treasury for deficit reduction.
The Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act has the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the Public Safety Alliance (PSA), APCO, the National Sheriffs Association (NSA), and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). A copy of the bill summary can be found here.