Congress Must Act to Protect Public Safety Communications on the T-Band Spectrum

This week we honor the victims of 9/11 and the brave men and women that fought to save lives during that fateful morning. Over the course of the one hundred and two minutes between when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center and the collapse of both the North and South Towers, on and off-duty first responders battled to evacuate and rescue people inside of the buildings. Within seventeen minutes of the first strike, “New York City and the Port Authority…had mobilized the largest rescue operation in the city’s history.”

A lack of interoperable communications hampered response efforts at Ground Zero. FDNY chiefs stationed in incident command posts could not communicate with NYPD’s Aviation Unit, which had an awareness of the structural integrity of the buildings. The inability to communicate prevented incident command from being aware of the impending collapse of the World Trade Center towers. This lack of interoperable communications led to the tragic loss of three hundred and forty-three firefighters in the Twin Towers.

In New York City today, public safety agencies have 120 channels on the T-Band (470-512 MHz) on which to communicate through land mobile radio. New York City used a significant portion of the $2 trillion it received in Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant funding following 9/11 to develop this interoperable public safety infrastructure. Now, years after the tragedy, the city has resilient  communications that enable unified command in response to incidents large and small.

In 2012, Congress enacted Section 6103 of P.L. 112-96, which directs the auction of the public safety licenses on the T-Band. This auction represents a threat to public safety and has the potential to undo the significant investments made in communications interoperability across the nation. Of the $6 trillion in post-9/11 funding dedicated to improving national security, thirty percent was dedicated to public safety radio communications interoperability.  The T-Band represents an essential piece of this interoperability landscape, and as such the IAFC urges Congress to pass legislation repealing the T-Band auction requirement this year. 

Please join the IAFC campaign to protect public safety communications on the T-Band. Visit our legislative action page here.

Brandon Allen is a government relations manager with the IAFC.

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