Battle lines drawn over D block spectrum for emergency network

A bipartisan coalition of senators is politicking for the allocation of public spectrum for an emergency communications network, and a new bill introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is their latest push, writes the National Journal’s David Hatch.

McCain and Lieberman introduced the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011 May 19, and the bill would give first responders a specific portion of spectrum, known as the D block, for a resilient, state-of-the-art communications network, Hatch writes. The senators’ bill would designate $5.5 billion for building the network across the country, including extending it to cash-strapped rural areas, and $5.5 billion for continued network maintenance, writes the Hillicon Valley’s Sara Jerome.

The timing of McCain and Lieberman’s new bill coincides with an upcoming vote on a similar bill proposed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Hatch writes. That pits a bipartisan group of senators against Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and some House members who prefer to auction the block of spectrum and raise money.

As previously observed, auctioning off the D-block is no easy task because of the specific requirements placed on a winning bidder that would need to help build the public-safety network. Efforts to sell a 10 MHz section of the 700 MHz have proven futile for several years now.

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