Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has scheduled a hearing Feb.
16 on building an interoperable emergency communications network.
Rockefeller, who is chairman of the Senate Commerce
Committee, introduced a bill in the last Congress that would allocate
spectrum for that purpose, something the White House is also backing as part of
a national wireless initiative the president will talk about today in a speech
Broadband fans will have to divide their attention, since
the hearing is scheduled for the same day as a House Communications &
Internet Subcommittee hearing on the FCC's new network neutrality rules.
The FCC tried to auction spectrum to a private entity to
create a public-private partnership on an interoperable network, but failed to
draw a minimum bid. The FCC in its National Broadband Plan recommended trying
the auction route again, but FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has since
signaled that the priority is getting the network built, and the White House
this week came out in support of simply giving the spectrum to first responders
and funding it's operation through proceeds from spectrum auctions.
Those are the same incentive auctions that would compensate
broadcasters for giving up spectrum for wireless broadband, something else the
White House was stumping for this week.