Chairman Rockefeller Calls for Nationwide Public Safety Network

Urges Passage of His Bill to Protect the Public, Promote Smart Use of Nation’s Radio Airwaves

September 23, 2010

Chairman RockefellerWASHINGTON, D.C.— September is when we remember. We remember that nine years ago we witnessed the horror of September 11th. We remember that five years ago we watched the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. We remember because even with the passage of time, these are wounds that do not heal and losses we will never forget.

At home in West Virginia, we also know tragedy all too well. Just this April the Nation joined us in mourning the 29 brave souls killed in the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine. The grim reality is that in every state represented in this Congress, there are emergencies and crises.

Whether they are committed by the hand of nature or the unnatural hand of terrorism, one thing rings universally true: we are eternally grateful for the bravery of our public safety officials and we honor those whose job it is to keep us from harm.

This is why I firmly believe that our public safety officials are owed the resources they need to do their job. And this is why nine years after September 11th, we should be ashamed that they lack a nationwide, interoperable wireless broadband communications system.

This is what led me to introduce the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act as one of the key pieces of legislation as the new Chairman of this Committee. My legislation does two things.

First, it allocates the 10 megahertz of spectrum known as the “D-block” to public safety to support a nationwide, interoperable wireless broadband network that will help keep us safe. Second, it gives the Federal Communications Commission the authority to hold incentive auctions based on the voluntary return of spectrum. These auctions, in turn, will provide funding to support the construction and maintenance of public safety’s network. And they will free up additional spectrum for innovative commercial uses.

I believe that this approach is fair. I believe that this is the right course—and the right thing to do. I urge my colleagues to join me in this effort. I know that some people believe there are other approaches to solving these problems. I will work with anyone who seeks to make sure that our public safety officials have the resources they need to communicate, to do their jobs, and to keep us safe.

I am grateful to each and every one of our witnesses for being here today. I look forward to their testimony. Thank you.