Language to reallocate the 700 MHz broadband D block spectrum to public safety is included in the American Jobs Act of 2011, a legislative proposal that President Barack Obama submitted to Congress Sept. 12. Currently, the D block is slated to be auctioned for commercial services.
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The proposal mandates the reallocation of the D block and a public-safety wireless licensee to hold the spectrum, along with a Public Safety Broadband Corp. to promote construction of the network. The corporation is a nonprofit, nongovernmental agency and would include a board of directors comprised of federal and nonfederal members.
Initial funding for the corporation provides up to $50 million to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to transfer to the corporation for expenses before proceeds from spectrum auctions authorized in this bill are realized. Permanent self-funding allows the corporation to charge fees for the use of the public-safety broadband network’s capacity, whether public-safety users or commercial users on a secondary basis. It also requires that fees cover the operations of the network after the initial expenditure of federal funds and that proceeds from fees be reinvested in the network.
This proposal creates a state and local implementation fund authorized to spend up to $100 million, and up to this amount could be borrowed from future spectrum proceeds to operate the program before proceeds from an auction are realized. Proceeds from certain spectrum auctions will be deposited in the Public Safety Trust Fund, under the proposal.
The legislation provides $7 billion to build and operate the nationwide public-safety broadband network, as well as conduct research to develop standards for the network. Specifically, $200 million is provided to the state and local grant program to plan for and implement the network, $6.5 billion is provided for network construction (including up to $50 million of initial funding provided by NTIA) and up to $300 million is provided for the public-safety communications research and development activities. Funds are available until fiscal year 2016.
One section of the bill authorizes the FCC to allow broadband technologies to operate in spectrum designated for legacy narrowband and other LMR technologies used for public-safety operations. The bill also gives the FCC authority to adopt rules that allow public-safety entities to roam and have priority access on commercial networks in emergencies under certain conditions.
Annual audits and reports to Congress and the president are included in the bill.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller praised the proposed bill. “I am pleased to see that President Obama's jobs plan includes proposals to invest in the wireless economy and provide first responders with the communications tools they need to do their jobs safely and effectively,” Rockefeller said. “Investment in this sector can create hundreds of thousands of jobs, help first responders and generate billions of dollars for deficit reduction. It's a win-win-win proposal. And I look forward to working with my colleagues to make this happen.”
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