Engel, Zeldin, King Introduce “Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act” to Protect T-Band Spectrum Use by First Responders

Washington D.C.—Congress Members Eliot Engel (D-NY16), Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), and Peter King (R-NY2) yesterday introduced the “Don’t Break up the T-Band Act,” legislation that would repeal a provision of a 2012 law to allow law-enforcement, fire officials, and EMS to continue using the T-Band spectrum to operate their radios for day-to-day life saving operations.

Currently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is required to reallocate and auction the T-Band spectrum by 2021, which would endanger public safety communications in major metropolitan areas across the United States. The T-Band is a portion of spectrum used in 11 heavily populated metropolitan areas, covering over 90 million Americans, to support critical public safety communications (i.e. police and fire radios) and provide regional interoperability among first responders. Public safety agencies have spent numerous years and hundreds of millions of dollars of federal, state and local funds to plan and build out these T-Band networks. The result is battle-tested public safety networks that provide resilient coverage, reliability and regional interoperability. This spectrum is essential to public safety and for many public safety entities there is nowhere else to move, so Reps. Engel, Zeldin, and King have introduced the “Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act” to preserve the T-Band spectrum before it is reallocated for good.

“With regards to the T-Band spectrum, we have a classic case of ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,’” said Congressman Eliot Engel (D. NY-16). “First Responders charged with the protection of life and property – such as police, fire fighters and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers – rely on T-Band as a vital component of their communications systems. It is a reliable and resilient network that functions in subway tunnels, underground concrete parking lots, and even deep inside large buildings where other systems routinely fail.  Our bill is designed to allow first responders to continue using the T-Band spectrum to communicate effectively when saving lives and keeping us safe.”

“Our first responders bravely and selflessly put their lives on the line each and every day to protect our communities, and our first priority must be ensuring they have the resources they need to safely and effectively do their jobs,” said Congressman Lee Zeldin (R. NY-1). “From hurricanes to fires, in the most dire situations, the T-Band spectrum provides critical communication between first responders. Even when cell phones, internet, and electricity cease to function, T-band is the last line of defense, and selling off this spectrum would be a disservice to our nation’s first responders and the millions of Americans they serve.”

“This legislation allows our first responders to take advantage of emerging telecommunication technologies while still retaining their radio communications. In addition, it will remove the requirement to re-work emergency communications infrastructure which would be an overwhelming financial burden to our local governments,” said Congressman Peter King (R.NY-2).

“The safety of our city depends on our use of the T-Band, and taking it away would be unconscionable. The City has invested millions of dollars in ensuring our first responders can communicate in all types of emergencies, and this resource is key to our ability to keep our communities safe. I want to thank the congressional leaders who are working to protect public safety through HR 5085,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Displacement of the T-Band spectrum would result in significant service interruptions to mission critical communications and the costs of rebuilding our radio systems would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  Additionally, there is no alternative spectrum available within our region to which the systems could relocate,” said Raymond A. Edey, Executive Director, Interagency Communications Interoperability System, JPA. “There is simply no compelling reason to proceed with the reallocation of T-Band Spectrum.“

“The NYPD has significantly reduced crime and disorder in New York City due, in large part, to our ability to rapidly respond and effectively communicate,” NYC Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said. “Our police officers depend on the well-engineered T-Band to keep all New Yorkers safe. This system enables the NYPD to efficiently answer more than nine million calls to 911 each year. This legislation is crucial in maintaining our ability to best protect all the people we serve.”

“Since September 11th, we have systematically improved radio communications for our Firefighters and EMS personnel responding to fires and medical emergencies because those transmissions can so often mean the difference between life and death,” said NYC Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “Losing the T-Band spectrum would require billions of dollars to replace existing radios and infrastructure, devastate FDNY’s operations at thousands of emergencies each day, and unnecessarily endanger the safety of every single New Yorker.”

“Communication among Police Officers and Agencies is the most important item in today’s law enforcement tool kit,” said Joe Griffin, Director of Operations, Boston Area Police Emergency Radio Network.  “The elimination of T-Band and its inter-operable capabilities would send officers back to the day when they had to rely on the call box or keep a dime in his/her pocket for the nearest pay phone.”

“NYC Emergency Management highly supports the ‘Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act,’” said Joseph Esposito, Commissioner of the NYC Emergency Management Department. “From hurricanes to power outages, we rely on the T-Band spectrum to ensure that our first responders can communicate over a network that is reliable and resilient. This bill protects an irreplaceable communication tool that is critical to the City’s public safety agencies.”

“The City of New York has made a tremendous investment in its emergency communications infrastructure to support critical City operations. That’s what is threatened by losing the T-Band,” said Samir Saini, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. “It’s simple: the brave men and women charged with protecting New Yorkers need the T-band to do their jobs. This bill ensures they can do just that.”

Bryant Daniels | Director of Public Affairs
Congressman Eliot L. Engel
2462 Rayburn House Building | (202) 225-2464