WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Committee Member John McCain, R-Ariz., Wednesday introduced legislation to provide first responders with more broadband spectrum to help them build a 21st century interoperable communications network.
            The First Responders Protection Act of 2010 would give the public safety community the so-called “D Block” spectrum, rather than allowing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction this spectrum to a commercial carrier.  The FCC is slated to auction the D Block in 2011. 
            “It’s time to put first responders first. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a coast-to-coast communications network for our nation’s first responders that is secure, robust and resilient,” Lieberman said. “Today, public safety communicates on slices of scattered spectrum that prevents interoperable communications among departments and cannot support large data transmissions. Securing the D Block for public safety will allow us to build an interoperable network for emergency communications that could prevent the kinds of communication meltdowns we had during 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina.”
            McCain said: “I’m honored to introduce the First Responders Protection Act of 2010 with Senator Joe Lieberman today to provide our country’s brave first responders with the communications network necessary to serve and protect. As we approach the nine year commemoration of the horrific events on September 11th and the five year remembrance of the devastating tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, it is disgraceful that police officers, sheriffs and fire fighters still don’t have a nation-wide interoperable communications system.  Our legislation provides the spectrum and funding to first responders, while being fiscally responsible and ensuring local control and conscientious governance.”
            The additional spectrum would help public safety organizations accommodate broadband data transmissions, such as videos and maps, over mobile devices. Representatives Peter King, R-N.Y., and Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., have introduced similar legislation in the House.
            The First Responders Protection Act of 2010 would:
•    Require the Federal Communications Commission to license the 700 MHz D-block spectrum to the same “public safety broadband licensee” that holds the license for 10 MHz already allocated to public safety.  This would place a single public safety licensee in control of all public safety spectrum in the 700 MHz band.
•    Direct $5.5 billion in revenue from the auction of a different block of spectrum to commercial interests to support the construction of towers, transmission facilities, and equipment for the new public safety network. Another $5.5 billion in auction proceeds would help cover recurring maintenance and operational costs. 
            The Senators said that providing first responders with this additional spectrum would be far more valuable to the public interest than allowing the FCC to auction it off to commercial carriers.
            Among the public safety organizations that support allocating the D Block spectrum to public safety are:  the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Sheriffs Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, International (APCO), the National Emergency Managers Association, 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, and the International City/County Management Association.