Democratic senators are pushing legislation to repeal a provision in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 that would require the T-band to be reauctioned by the FCC for commercial use.
The Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act of 2018 (S 3347) was introduced by Sens. Ed Markey (D., Mass.). Cosponsors are Sens. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass). Public safety officials had hoped to secure a Republican to introduce the Senate measure with Sen. Markey.
The bill is a companion to legislation (HR 5085) introduced in February by Rep. Elliot Engel (D., N.Y.) (TR Daily, Feb. 27). Original cosponsors were Reps. Lee M. Zeldin (R., N.Y.) and Peter T. King (R., N.Y.), and that bill now has 19 cosponsors.
Meanwhile, a discussion draft circulated to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee would authorize the FCC to hold an incentive auction of the 4.9 gigahertz band and rescind the requirement that the FCC auction T-band frequencies (TR Daily, June 13). The measure has been circulated by staffers for committee Chairman Greg Walden (R., Ore.).
Congress required the FCC to reallocate and auction public safety spectrum in the T-band by 2021 and relocate incumbents by 2023. Proceeds from the auction can be used to cover the relocation costs of public safety licensees. The T-band encompasses TV channels 14-20 (470-512 megahertz). Public safety agencies use the spectrum in 11 major markets.
In 2013, a report by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) that estimated the cost of relocating public safety T-band operations to other spectrum would be more than $5.9 billion and cited the lack of alternative spectrum (TR Daily, March 15, 2013).
“Every day, first responders in Massachusetts and across the country risk their lives on our behalf,” said Sen. Markey. “Law-enforcement, firefighters, EMS personnel and security officials rely on T-Band spectrum to communicate with each other in hazardous situations. I am proud to introduce this legislation so that the brave men and women who keep us safe will have the resources they need to do their job.”
“Our first responders put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, and Congress has a responsibility to protect them. That includes making sure our fire, police, and EMT workers have access to the T-Band spectrum so they can communicate clearly and effectively while they’re doing their jobs and don’t have to worry about their communication systems failing during an emergency situation,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “I am proud to support this important legislation, and I will always do everything in my power to fight for our first responders.”
“Our first responders put their lives on the line for us every day, running towards danger rather than away from it,” said Sen. Casey. “We have a duty to ensure they have all the resources they need to keep the public, and themselves, safe. I’m proud to join my colleagues in supporting the radio communications system utilized by first responders throughout Pennsylvania.”
“Public safety and American taxpayers have invested wisely to build out T-Band land mobile radio networks to meet mission critical voice requirements of major metropolitan jurisdictions across the country,” said Tom Jenkins, president and chairman of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).
“In addition, these LMR networks provide the option for off-network unit-to-unit operations, local control, specialized operations such as paging for volunteer firefighters, and regional interoperability in large metropolitan areas. This is why the IAFC strongly supports the Don’t Break Up the T Band Act.”
“Many of the sheriffs we represent will endure severe public safety ramifications by the auctioning of the T-Band as required by Section 6103 of Public Law 112-96,” said Jonathan Thompson, executive director and chief executive officer of the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA). “Enactment of this legislation introduced by Senator Markey, together with H.R. 5085 introduced by Representative Engel, would repeal Section 6103 and enable public safety officers to continue use of the T-Band spectrum in which it has made significant investments of taxpayer funds to deploy mission critical communications systems.”
The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council said its members, which include the IAFC and NSA, support the legislation. “Public safety organizations use the T-Band spectrum to support both day-to-day operations and regional interoperability,” the federation said. “Because of the mission critical nature of the communications required, local public safety organizations have spent many years and millions of dollars in federal, state, and local taxpayer funds to plan and build out T-Band networks that are designed for the operational needs of each area.” – Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org