Allocation of D-Block to public safety appears imminent
It appears increasingly likely that the D-Block of 700 MHz spectrum will finally be allocated to public safety. In fact, rumors are now floating around the Internet that a Senate vote on the issue is imminent within 48 hours, and that public safety will not have to forfeit it existing 700 MHz narrowband spectrum.
While independent confirmation of those last two points has not yet been made, I’ve been working the phones since first hearing this news, placing calls to the press offices of Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and Jay Rockefeller — two public safety’s top Capitol Hill advocates for D-Block allocation — and have learned that a press conference related to the matter will be held in the next couple of hours. One source with whom I spoke danced around giving actual confirmation of the details, but coyly indicated I was not far off the mark.
Show Me The Money
A few of my sources have indicated to me that included in the pending deal is some seven billion dollars in funding. Allocation without funding — or governance accommodations for that matter — would be all but useless. While it presently remains unknown where this funding would come from, as recently as yesterday President Obama was reported to have been in favor of holding so-called ‘incentive auctions’ in order to pay for the construction of the nationwide interoperable emergency communications network.
“Obama’s FY 2013 budget plan would redirect $7 billion in incentive auction revenue toward network deployment costs, and another $300 million toward R&D,” said a report posted late yesterday on Bloomberg (a service that tracks business and economic news).
“A White House fact sheet on the president's budget plan indicates that incentive auctions could raise as much as $27 billion,” Bloomberg concluded.
My friends over at the Public Safety Alliance — an organization headed by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and consisting of members of the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Emergency Management Association, and dozens of others — have been working hard on this issue since well before Congress returned from their holiday recess in January.
In fact, in mid-January the PSA sent an open letter on spectrum legislation to all members of Congress, and released a paper written by wireless expert and public safety advocate Andy Seybold outlining the need for D Block allocation — without the threat of losing current 700 MHz narrowband spectrum.
Click here to read that white paper, and check this space in coming hours to see what is said during the abovementioned press conference.
According to one source I have on Capitol Hill, that will be streamed live here.