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Public Safety Communications Legislation Blocked in the U.S. Senate


Today the U.S. Senate failed to pass H.R. 451, the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act. This legislation would prevent the auction of public safety spectrum in the T-Band (470 MHz - 512 MHz). It also would prevent states from diverting 9-1-1 fees to other purposes.

Section 6103 of Title VI of Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-96) requires the Federal Communications Commission to auction the public safety T-Band spectrum in early 2021. Public safety agencies would have to vacate their spectrum by 2023. This auction will disrupt interoperable public safety communications in 11 major metropolitan areas and their surrounding regions. These 11 areas are: Boston, New York City, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, D.C. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco/Oakland.

These jurisdictions use the T-band for mission-critical communications and interoperable communications with other agencies in times of crisis. For example, the T-Band was used in the Boston area after the 2013 Patriots Day bombing in Boston and now during the response to COVID-19. 

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) issued two reports demonstrating that the loss of the T-Band will endanger the operations of public safety agencies in these major metropolitan areas. According to figures issued by NPSTC and confirmed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), it will cost public safety approximately $5.9 billion to move off the spectrum. In addition, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, has repeatedly urged Congress to allow public safety agencies to retain their spectrum in the T-Band.

H.R. 451, introduced by Representatives Eliot Engel, Lee Zeldin, Al Green, Peter King, and 21 other Representatives, passed the House last week by a vote of 410-5.

“The International Association of Fire Chiefs is disappointed that the Senate was unable to pass H.R. 451, the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act, today,” said Chief Gary Ludwig, IAFC President (2019-2020). “The T-Band provides critical interoperable communications to first responders across the nation as we respond to COVID-19, civil unrest, wildland fires, and hurricanes. We expect the Senate to do its part to protect the public. It is imperative that Senators take action on this issue before they leave Washington to pursue their re-election.”

Media Inquiries
Ken LaSala, Director, Government Relations and Policy
klasala@iafc.org | 703-537-4847


About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC): The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous response, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally, and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders.

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