September 30, 2011
RE: Action Requested: D Block Legislation in House Commerce Committee
We are hearing that sometime in October the House Energy and Commerce Committee may begin to review legislation that would impact the ability to build a nationwide public safety communications network, and the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology may do so as soon as early next week.
New Jersey Congressmen Frank Pallone and Leonard Lance are members of the Committee. Their support for our position is crucial.
We ask that all of you, but especially those of you who are represented by either Congressman Pallone or Congressman Lance, who are members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, to contact our representatives and urge them to support legislation which would:
- reallocate the D Block of the 700 MHz to public safety so there is sufficient spectrum to build a nationwide communications network; and,
- use proceeds from other spectrum auctions to offset the cost of network deployment, operation and maintenance.
It is especially important that you urge our representatives on the Subcommittee or full Committee to support any amendments that would reallocate the D Block to public safety.
The draft bill released by the Committee majority in July would not reallocate the D Block to public safety and would “sunset” narrowband voice use of 700 MHz after 10 years. This would create prohibitive costs for localities without providing them the tools to upgrade to the nationwide public safety network first responders need. There is no reason to expect that the bill the Committee’s final bill will be significantly different this time.
All 50 governors and all the major national associations representing state and local governments support reallocation of the D Block to public safety. In the Senate, as well as other House Committees, reallocation of the D Block has been a bipartisan issue. This has only become contentious in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
We at the League strongly support reallocation of the 700 MHz D Block to public safety.
The location of the D Block offers a one-time opportunity to improve first responder communications and emergency response capabilities while providing access to the technologies commercial customers take for granted.
The D Block will provide first responders quick and reliable communications. Commercial networks cannot guarantee first responders have priority access over other users. When lives are at stake, firefighters and police officers cannot have their calls dropped or wait to get a signal.
The D Block will reduce costs for taxpayers. By providing a single section of contiguous broadband spectrum, public safety could not only utilize the most modern and reliable technologies for video and data communications, but could also move existing voice communications in other parts of the spectrum onto 700 MHz in the future. This would free up other areas of spectrum for potential commercial use while also reducing the costs to taxpayers of maintaining multiple communications systems.
The D Block will give public safety access to technology that commercial customers take for granted. Most of us take for granted text messaging, sharing pictures and distributing videos via commercial wireless devices. First responders can only do this through commercial networks, which do not meet mission critical needs. First responders should be able to reliably distribute and receive pictures, video and data in real-time from other officers, citizens and emergency dispatch systems.
It is the right place for public safety. Existing research and the variety of broadband applications for public safety use indicate that public safety needs at least 20 MHz of contiguous broadband spectrum. This can only be achieved by combining the D Block with the 10 MHz already allocated to public safety. Failure to reallocate the D Block will force public safety to continue to rely on separate data and voice networks, limiting the kinds of applications first responders can utilize.
Commercial networks are not reliable in emergencies. In disasters and other emergencies, customers clog commercial systems as they attempt to communicate with friends and loved ones, access information, and document the event online. This usage blocks first responders from accessing the network. To protect life and property, first responders require what is referred to as “ruthless preemption” or the ability to kick commercial customers off the network. From a commercial provider standpoint, this is not an acceptable business practice. Therefore, efforts to provide priority to public safety on commercial networks cannot possibly meet public safety needs for assured access. Reallocating the D Block would give public safety officials sufficient spectrum to utilize a variety of applications while also controlling access to the network during times of emergency.
With the D Block, one device can do it all. To date, public safety has been granted only small sections of spectrum over time, but never enough to consolidate communications into a single frequency band. This means that when multiple agencies respond to an event, they cannot communicate with each other because they each use radios that operate on different portions of the spectrum. Many police carry multiple radios just to ensure they can communicate with other responding agencies during emergencies. Giving public safety the D Block would help end the need to utilize multiple communications systems which adds significantly to the cost and complexity of emergency communications.
If you have any questions on this contact Mitchel Herckis, Principal Associate for Federal Relations at the National League of Cities at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 626-3124.
Very truly yours,
|Hon. Brian Wahler, Mayor,
Piscataway and Chair,
|Hon. Tim McDonough,
Mayor, Hope and Chair
Management Task Force
|Hon. Chuck Chiarello,
President, NJLM and
Mayor, Buena Vista Twp.