Nov 29, 2011: Energy and Commerce Dems Release New Legis to Create Public Safety Broadband Network

Washington, DC— Today Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, Ranking Member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and other Democratic members of the Committee announced plans to introduce legislation that would create a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network.  The “Wireless Innovation and Public Safety Act of 2011” would also provide the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with incentive auction authority to efficiently and responsibly repurpose broadcast spectrum for commercial broadband purposes and unlicensed innovation.

“Construction of a nationwide, public safety broadband network remains critical unfinished business,” said Rep. Waxman.  “I and my colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle believe it is long overdue.  Although we are still hoping for bipartisan action on this critical issue, today we are laying out what we believe is the best path forward to resolve this problem. This legislation has garnered broad support from governors, mayors, the public safety community, public interest groups, and others, and I hope our Republican colleagues will join with us to pass this legislation and send it to the White House.”

“I’m proud to introduce a bill that will finally provide our first responders with a nationwide, interoperable communications network and allocate the initial resources to transition our 9-1-1 call centers to support next generation technologies,” said Rep. Eshoo.  “As mobile data usage continues to skyrocket, our bill will tackle this growing demand by expanding the availability of both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. A 21st century spectrum policy must balance the needs of wireless carriers as well as those of entrepreneurs, innovators, and start-ups. At a time in which job creation and spurring new innovation are paramount to our nation’s economic recovery, we must act now. While there continue to be key policy differences with the approach taken by the Majority, I remain hopeful that Thursday’s Subcommittee markup will provide an opportunity to debate these differences and finally reach a bipartisan compromise.”

"When it comes to the communications needs of public safety, we must ensure that our brave first responders have the communications tools they need to do their dangerous jobs,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey. “With the creation of a nationwide, interoperable public safety network, this legislation would enable fulfillment of one of the most important recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.  While addressing the need for more spectrum, the bill also ensures that an auction would be truly voluntary for broadcasters, who would receive a portion of the auction proceeds and additional choices in the marketplace, if they chose to participate in the auction. I look forward to working with my colleagues, hopefully on a bipartisan basis, as this vital issue moves forward.

"The bill we are introducing today is based on sound policy, and has been carefully crafted with regard to the witness testimony we have heard on spectrum,” said Rep. Doris Matsui.  “This legislation will finally provide public safety with a nationwide interoperability network and continue to foster American innovation and ingenuity, all while maintaining sound fiscal discipline.  And, the bill is clear in answering the questions of 'who will govern this network?' and 'how will we ensure taxpayer money is used efficiently?’  I join my colleagues in calling for this legislation to be passed right away.  This is a matter of public safety and of jobs, neither of which can wait.”

“I am pleased to support and co-sponsor the Wireless Innovation and Public Safety Act of 2011,” said Rep. Donna M. Christensen.  “Having served on the House Committee on Homeland Security for many years, representing a district that has been hit by quite a few hurricanes, and having witnessed the tragedy of communication failure during some our country's greatest disasters, I know the absolute importance of interoperability for law enforcement and first responders. Our citizens need the security and our responders need the coordination capabilities and safety that interoperability provides. I want to thank Mr. Waxman and Ms. Eshoo for this legislation which will pair the desire of our first responders to work together with cutting edge broadband technology which would finally produce the type of nationwide network that we need.”

The legislation reallocates the D Block spectrum for public safety use.  In addition, it promotes efficient spectrum use by enabling sharing of public safety network spectrum and infrastructure to facilitate interoperability among agencies responding to emergencies and promote public/private partnerships to speed network deployment.  The legislation would establish a private, non-profit entity, the Public Safety Broadband Corporation, as the national governance vehicle for ensuring fiscal responsibility and accountability.

The legislation also directs the Commission to identify and auction approximately 250 MHz of spectrum to be made available for commercial mobile broadband.  Proceeds from the auctions will be deposited into the Public Safety Trust Fund.  The legislation also provides the FCC with the flexibility to preserve unlicensed spectrum in the TV band. Unlicensed spectrum in the TV band will enable innovators and entrepreneurs to develop applications and services like, super Wi-Fi hotspots, which will drive new economic opportunity and job creation.  The legislation also gives the FCC incentive auction authority to compensate licensees for voluntary relinquishment of their spectrum usage rights.

The “Wireless Innovation and Public Safety Act of 2011” builds on the bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate, S. 911, the “SPECTRUM Act”, introduced by Sen. Rockefeller and Sen. Hutchison.  

Groups in support of the legislation include the Public Safety Alliance, the National Governors Association, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer’s Union, Public Knowledge, the New America Foundation, Free Press, and Media Access Project.

The original cosponsors of the “Wireless Innovation and Public Safety Act of 2011” are Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, Rep. Edward J. Markey, Rep. Mike Doyle, Rep. Doris Matsui, Rep. Donna M. Christensen, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., Rep. Diana DeGette, Rep. Eliot Engel, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

The full text of the legislation, a four page summary, and statements of support are available on line here or via email upon request.