Today, U.S. Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, joined by Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) and 5 others, introduced H.R. 607, the "Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011," legislation that will strengthen the communications capabilities of America's first responders by reallocating the D Block communications spectrum to public safety.
Last year, in the 111th Congress, King introduced similar legislation to ensure the development of a national interoperable public safety wireless broadband network. Today, President Obama personally called for the reallocation of the D Block to public safety.
King said: "This legislation is exactly what America's first responders have long advocated, so I welcome President Obama's support. Allocation of the D Block to public safety will ensure that our Nation's first responders have sufficient spectrum to develop a wireless broadband network. Public safety officials must have access to new technologies to perform increasingly complex duties. These technologies must have adequate and dedicated spectrum that is managed and controlled by public safety to ensure that the technologies will be more secure and reliable than those in commercial systems."
Thompson said: "Today marks an important moment in our decade-long effort at providing first responders--in every corner of the nation--with interoperable communications. A unified vision for how to achieve this elusive capability has finally emerged. As a former volunteer firefighter, I take great pride in the role that this Committee has played in amplifying the voices of the first responder community. Our efforts have secured, for the first time, Administration support for investing significant resources towards ensuring that a nationwide network is built out. The legislation that I am introducing today with Chairman King will help ensure that those resources are there."
The Broadband for First Responders Act is comprehensive, addressing not only spectrum allocation, but also funding for the construction of a public safety network, and governance. Funding for the construction of the network will come from auction of globally homogenized Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum. Under this legislation, there will be a single licensee for the full 20 MHz of public safety broadband spectrum.
Original co-sponsors, in addition to Ranking Member Thompson, include Homeland Security Committee Members Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), as well as Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY).
The legislation is supported by the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the International City/County Management Association, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Emergency Management Association, the National Sheriffs' Association, the Major County Sheriffs' Association, the National Troopers Coalition, and the National Criminal Justice Association.