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Hearing Demonstrates Core Issue of D Block Spectrum for Public Safety Broadband

Hearing Demonstrates Core Issue of D Block Spectrum for Public Safety Broadband

NYPD Deputy Chief Scores Points in Hostile Environment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 12, 2011 – Four months into the 112th Congress, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held its first hearing of the year on critical spectrum policy. Filled with a majority of witnesses favoring commercial auction of a critical section of spectrum in the 700 MHz band known as the D block, the hearing, entitled, “Using Spectrum to Advance Public Safety, Promote Broadband, Create Jobs, and Reduce the Deficit,” repeatedly came back to the central question of whether or not the nation can afford to provide public safety with the necessary allocation of this finite national resource, or whether auctioning for deficit reduction is the primary focus of the day.

Chief Dowd reiterated that public safety, like the Obama Administration in its own independent government-wide analysis last year, dismisses as “unworkable” a commercial auction of the D block. Furthermore, Chief Dowd presented several recent independent studies and reports to the committee that make clear public safety’s need for additional spectrum for mission-critical broadband, testifying that, “A study by Phoenix Center found that assigning the D block to public safety provides at least $3.4 billion more in social benefits as opposed to an auction.”

The Phoenix Center study, conducted by a noted economist and a former high level FCC official, also suggests that the loss of auction revenues today is more than offset by higher auction revenues and lower public safety network deployment costs tomorrow. Thus, the auction adds, rather than relieves, stress to the public budget. In contrast to the House Commerce Committee’s reluctance, bipartisan support for D block allocation to public safety is evident in the Senate including among leading fiscal conservatives such as Senator John McCain and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

In the wake of today’s hearing, Sean Kirkendall, spokesman for the Public Safety Alliance (PSA), the nation’s leading advocate for millions of first responders, issued the following statement:

“We commend the committee for taking this matter up, and look forward to greater participation in the series of hearings planned over the next few months ahead of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. We know that Chairman Upton, Ranking Member Waxman, as well as their colleagues on the subcommittee, take seriously the expertise of federal, state and local government officials, public safety professionals, public technologists and the majority in the industry, well beyond just competing telecommunications carriers, who are increasingly and overwhelmingly supportive of allocating D block to public safety with funding. While we understand the jurisdiction of the committee is to advance commerce, the cost of advancing commerce should not be at the expense of protecting our Nation, and the price paid when critical incidents happen must also be factored into the dollars and cents of fiscal responsibility, including nationwide cost savings at every level of government, not just the immediate federal budget imbalance.

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