Public safety groups are using the death of Osama bin Laden
as a peg for their push for legislation that would create a nationwide
interoperable public safety network funded with money from incentive auctions
of broadcast spectrum.
The bills they are pushing for are S. 28, sponsored by Sen.
Jay Rockefeller (D- W. Va.), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, and H.R.
607, sponsored by Peter King (R-NY), chair of the House Committee on Homeland
"The thousands of men and women of public safety
nationwide applaud the bi-partisan, long-term effort of the Obama and Bush
Administrations for the capture and execution of al Qaeda lead terrorist Osama
bin Laden," the alliance said in a statement.
The administration has recognized that bin Laden's death
could prompt a backlash among his terrorist followers, and the alliance
seconded that in calling for action. They cited language from the March testimony of 9/11 Commission co-chairsThomas Kean and Lee Hamilton in which they said: "We must not approach these urgent
matters at a leisurely pace. We don't know when the next attack or disaster
will strike. Further delay is intolerable."
The FCC has tried to auction spectrum reclaimed in
the DTV transition for a public-private partnership to create an
interoperable emergency broadband network, but failed to draw a minimum bid.
Current law requires that spectrum to be auctioned, but King and Rockefeller
and the Public Safety Alliance want to change the law to allow it to be
allocated, with the funding to build and maintain it coming from incentive
auctions of broadcast spectrum as part of the reclamation of that spectrum for
The White House has weighed in favor of allocating the
spectrum to a public safety network and to use $7 billion of the auction
proceeds to fund that network.
Also arguing for action is the upcoming 10-year
anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and how it might look if Congress had taken no
action on one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which was the
creation of the network.
Broadcasters are concerned about how voluntary spectrum
reclamation is going to be, but certainly want the FCC to get the authority to
compensate them for whatever take-back there is.
"The unimplemented recommendations of the 9/11 Commission are no less important with Osama bin Laden dead than they were with him alive," King told B&C in an e-mail Monday. "In fact, they may well be more vital. Al Qaeda and its affiliates continue to plot attacks against our homeland. It is still vitally important that we reallocate the D Block to public safety so that our first responders can establish a national interoperable public safety wireless broadband network, which is exactly what they have been advocating for years."