Congress Gives the D Block to Public Safety

After many years of hard work by the IAFC and others, Congress has agreed to allocate the D Block to public safety and support the development of a mission-critical, nationwide public safety broadband network. These provisions are included in the conference report to the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (H.R. 3630), which the House and Senate will vote on today.

The passage of this legislation will bring public safety communications capability into the 21st century with a new national architecture. This outcome is the culmination of a major effort over the past five years by the IAFC and other national public safety organizations through the Public Safety Alliance. The hallmarks of this successful effort were trust and cooperation among the key national public safety organizations, a consistent message, and the persistent effort of the many fire chiefs across the nation.   

“There are a lot of people to thank today, but most of all, I would like to thank the IAFC members across the country,” said Chief Al Gillespie, IAFC president.  “Because of your efforts, both big and small, we have created a paradigm shift that will create a more effective emergency response system and ensure safer communities.”

About the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011

A summary of the provisions included in Title IV of the conference report includes:

  • The D Block will be allocated to public safety. 
  • Governance of the network by a new First Responder Network Authority will be within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Department of Commerce. 
  • Incentive auctions will provide $7 billion for construction of the network.
  • In approximately 11 years, public safety organizations will be required to give back spectrum currently in use in the T Band. The agreement includes provisions to pay for their relocation to the 700 MHz band. 

A Victory for Our Communities

A shared vision of enhanced public safety capability led to unprecedented collaboration between a diverse array of local and national stakeholders.  “Today’s victory is not just a victory for the fire service,” said Gillespie, “Thanks to our allies in public safety, government and industry, it's a victory for our communities.”  

The administration, led by President Obama and Vice President Biden, worked closely with public safety and were instrumental in developing the structure for the D Block allocation.  In addition, a bipartisan group of members of Congress, led by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and the Congressional Fire Services Caucus leadership, were convinced that action for public safety had to be taken.  The IAFC greatly appreciates the efforts of Senator Rockefeller and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) in working with the bipartisan leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House and Senate leadership to come to agreement on the final public safety provisions that will become law.  

Passage of this bill will be a landmark achievement, but there is still much work to be done.  The IAFC looks forward to continuing our work with national leaders and local communities in order to make a national broadband network a reality.

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