As part of the recent payroll tax deal the allocation
of spectrum, known as the D Block will be given to public safety.
After months of debate, Congress has reached
an agreement on a long-term unemployment extension, a reimbursement
rate to physicians treating Medicare patients and an extension of
a payroll tax cut through the end of the year. The legislation,
H.R. 3630 was formally introduced on February 16th and
passed Congress today.
Of particular importance to NAPO members is
the creation of a nationwide, interoperable broadband network for
public safety. Since the recommendations of the 9/11 commission,
NAPO has been working to advance rank-and-file’s position on this
critical issue and we continue to advocate for the creation of a
national interoperable broadband network for first responders. NAPO
has been working to advance this network by working with members
on Capitol Hill and within the Administration. We applaud the members
of the conference committee for reaching an agreement and providing
necessary resources to first responders.
This legislation gives the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) the authority to auction off unused or underutilized
broadcast spectrum, thus raising revenues to offset the cost of
the three spending provisions referenced above. This bill provides
that as much as $7 billion will be set aside from spectrum auction
proceeds for building out the First Responder Network on the 700MHz
In addition to providing $7 billion for the
advancement of the D Block build out, the legislation also addresses
several other areas of concern to NAPO members. The first of which
is governance of the network. The National Telecommunications and
Information Administration (NTIA), part of the Department of Commerce,
will oversee the newly created “First Responder Network Authority”
(FirstNet). This allows for a national
approach and a set of standards for the network. Additionally, the
legislation authorizes the creation of formal Advisory Committees
which will allow first responder to directly influence the governance
of the new network. Further, states will have the opportunity to
opt-out of FirstNet, but they will still be held accountable to meet
minimum, nationwide standards.
The legislation favorably resolves the Narrow
Band issue: public safety will be allowed flexible use of the narrowband
(subject to the FCC) rather than being forced to give up use of
that spectrum as proposed in an earlier draft. However, the T-Band
spectrum, currently utilized by some public safety entities, must
be returned to the FCC for re-auction no later than 9 years after
the enactment of legislation.
In crafting this deal the House majority made
major concessions and ultimately delivered what public safety needs.
NAPO recognizes these efforts and is also grateful for the Senator
Rockefeller’s leadership on S. 911.
First responders will soon benefit from the
implementation of a nationwide, interoperable broadband network
due to the leadership of the President and Vice President’s continued
NAPO President Tom Nee and Vice President Mick
McHale were invited to join Vice President Biden in the White House
on Tuesday, February 21st for a meeting to discuss the
plan to build out the public safety network.