Rockefeller Reintroduces Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act

January 25, 2011

Chairman RockefellerWASHINGTON, D.C. — Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today reintroduced the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act, a bill to promote smart and efficient use of the nation’s radio airwaves and provide first responders and public safety officials with additional wireless resources to keep America safe. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.).

Chairman Rockefeller’s statement follows:

“Radio spectrum is a tremendous resource. It can grow our economy and put new and innovative wireless services in the hands of consumers and businesses. It also can heighten our public safety by fostering communications between first responders when the unthinkable occurs.

“That is why I am reintroducing the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act. I will work tirelessly with the Administration, my Senate and House colleagues and public safety officials to pass this critical legislation this year.

“As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, there is no better way to honor the bravery of our police, firefighters, and other first responders than to provide them with the communications resources they need to do their job. This legislation provides public safety officials with 10-megahertz of spectrum to support a national, interoperable wireless broadband network that will help those who wear the shield keep us from harm.

“But it does more than that—because it lays the foundation for smart spectrum policy that will create economic opportunity out of wireless airwaves for years to come. It does this by providing the Federal Communications Commission with the authority to hold voluntary incentive auctions. This will help put valuable spectrum resources to innovative new commercial uses by promoting efficient uses of our nation’s airwaves. Even better, by providing authority for incentive auctions, this legislation will offer a revenue stream to assist public safety with the construction and development of their network.

“This is not only good policy. It is the right thing to do. The American people deserve the best and most innovative uses of wireless networks anywhere, and they should know that our first responders have access to the airwaves they need when tragedy strikes. My legislation guarantees this.”

Key Provisions of the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act would:

  • Establish a framework for the deployment of a nationwide, interoperable, wireless broadband network for public safety;
  • Allocate 10 megahertz of spectrum, known as the “D-block,” to public safety;
  • Direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop technical and operational standards to ensure nationwide interoperability and build-out (including in rural areas);
  • Direct the FCC to establish standards that allow public safety officials, when not using the network, to lease capacity on a secondary, but preemptible basis to non-public safety entities, including other governmental and commercial users; and 
  • Provide the FCC with incentive auction authority, which allows existing spectrum licensees to voluntarily relinquish their airwaves in exchange for a portion of the proceeds of the commercial auction of their spectrum. This provides new incentives for efficient use of spectrum. In addition, the funds from these incentive auctions, in conjunction with funds from the auction of other specified spectrum bands, and funds earned from leasing the public safety network on a secondary basis, will be used to fund the construction and maintenance of the nationwide, interoperable, wireless broadband public safety network.