Washington (December 21, 2020) – Today, Congress released its final end-of-year spending legislation, which includes Senator Edward J. Markey’s (D-Mass.) bill to preserve first responders’ access to T-band spectrum (470–512 MHz). Congress is now poised to pass the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act, legislation that allows firefighters, emergency medical service providers, police officers and other emergency personnel in eleven metropolitan areas across the county to continue to communicate with each other using T-Band spectrum.

The legislation 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 February 2021. First responders in highly-populated metropolitan areas in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere use critical T-Band spectrum for emergency public safety communication. Agencies across the country have invested millions of dollars in the T-Band networks, which offer the reliable coverage and regional interoperability that first responders require for mission critical voice communications.

A recent study by the United States Government Accountability Office noted that had Congress failed to act, 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.”
“For years, I have been working to ensure that first responders in Massachusetts and across the country have the resources they need to do their jobs,” said Senator Markey. “Every day, brave women and men on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic rely on T-Band spectrum to communicate with each other. By passing this bill into law, Congress will say loud and clear to our public safety heroes, ‘We have your back.’ I thank Leader Schumer and all of my partners on this legislation for their commitment to passing this bill into law. This is the type of action the American people deserve amidst the ongoing public health crisis we face.”
“New Yorkers know from 9/11 that first responders need a communication system that works when seconds count,” said Leader Schumer. “With an increased reliance on this technology during the pandemic, I have continued to fight to make sure our firefighters and first responders have reliable communications to be able to talk to each other and better respond to emergencies. This T-Band spectrum is priceless to Americans all across the country because it helps saves lives, and I am thrilled to keep this critical communication frequency intact.”
“The inclusion of our T-Band legislation in today’s spending bill marks an important step that we’ve been working towards for a long time,” said Representative Engel. “Emergency personnel in major metropolitan areas across the United States use the T-band spectrum for public safety communication. Agencies across the country have invested millions of local, state, and federal dollars in the T-Band networks, and relocating T-Band users to other bands of spectrum would have been difficult and cost prohibitive. Now, we won’t have to do that. I thank my colleagues in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle for making the preservation of the T-Band spectrum a priority for our first-responders. This is an important win for New York.”
“The IAFC thanks Senator Markey for leading the effort in the Senate to pass this critical legislation. Passage of the Don't Break Up the T-Band Act is a big victory for first responders. By preserving communications for first responders across the country, this legislation saves taxpayers billions and ensures the well-being of millions of Americans,” said Chief Richard R. Carrizzo, CFO, President and Chairman of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

Other Senators co-sponsoring the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act include Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J), and Corey Booker (D-N.J).
Representatives Eliot Engel (NY-16), Lee Zeldin (NY-01), Al Green (TX-09) and Peter King (NY-02) introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.