Washington (December 11, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) issued the following statement after his legislation to preserve first responders’ access to T-band spectrum (470–512 MHz) advanced through the Senate Commerce Committee as a provision of the 5G Spectrum Act. Senator Markey, along with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bob Casey (D-Penn.), introduced the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act, legislation, which allows police officers, firefighters, and other emergency personnel in 11 metropolitan areas across the county to communicate with each other during emergencies using T-Band spectrum.
“When a firefighter in Massachusetts reaches for the radio to call for backup, that first responder relies on the T-Band. When a 911 dispatcher sends police to the scene of a crime, that’s the T-Band in action. And after the Boston Marathon bombing, first responders used T-Band to coordinate with each other during the ensuing manhunt,” said Senator Markey. “From coast to coast, brave women and men use T-Band to communicate during emergencies to keep communities safe. We owe it to the public safety community to provide the infrastructure and tools they need to do their jobs. It is critical that Congress repeals the T-Band auction mandate before the end of this year.”
Senator Markey’s bill repeals a provision of the 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction off this band of spectrum by 2021. Police and fire fighters in highly-populated metropolitan areas in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere use critical T-Band spectrum for emergency public safety communication. Agencies across the country have invested millions of local, state, and federal dollars in the T-Band networks, which offer the reliable coverage and regional interoperability that first responders require for mission critical voice communications. Congressman Eliott Engel (NY-16) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. FCC Chairman Pai recently called on Congress to repeal the mandate to auction T-Band spectrum.
A recent study by the United States Government Accountability Office noted that the cost of relocating T-Band users to other bands of spectrum would cost between $5 and $6 billion, and for many T-Band users, alternative bands of spectrum are limited or “nonexistent.”
Senator Markey’s legislation has been endorsed by Verizon, International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Sheriff’s Association, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, ICI System, Greater Boston Police Council, Channel Industries Mutual Aid, Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System, National League of Cities, New York City Police Department, Greater Boston Police Council, the US Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.