Commerce Committee Approves Public Safety Network Bill - Now Heads to Senate Floor

Bipartisan Bill Creates Jobs, Will Save Lives

June 8, 2011

Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member HutchisonWASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV and Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison today led their Commerce Committee colleagues in sending S. 911, the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act, to the full Senate for consideration. The bill to build a nationwide communications network for first responders was overwhelmingly approved by the Commerce Committee by a 21-4 vote and is now one step closer to becoming law.

“Today’s vote and the strong endorsement of the public safety network get us closer to our goal—making things safer for Americans and first responders,” Chairman Rockefeller said. “I am glad that we have cleared this bill out of the Committee, and I intend to have conversations with leadership immediately about timing for a vote by the full Senate. I strongly encourage my colleagues in the House to also move forward with this legislation so that we can sign it into law by September, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”

“The Commerce Committee has come together to move forward the most significant piece of telecommunications legislation in a decade. It is imperative our communications infrastructure be ready to handle the growth and innovations of the future. We have a bipartisan agreement that will build, without taxpayer funds, a 21st century public safety network that gives first responders the tools to do their jobs. Our bill will spur job creation, generate hundreds of billions in economic activity, and drive research and development while bringing down the national deficit. This is a commonsense approach to a national priority, and I hope the Senate will pass S. 911 without delay,” said Senator Hutchison. 

The bill allows broadcasters and other spectrum licensees to voluntarily remit back unused portions of the airwaves. The freed up spectrum would be re-auctioned for commercial wireless broadband use in exchange for a portion of the proceeds through “incentive auctions.” The costs to build the public safety network will be offset by the proceeds of incentive auctions, and the surplus revenue will go toward deficit reduction.

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

  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Direct the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to conduct cutting edge research into transformative wireless technologies.
  • Surplus revenue from spectrum auctions, estimated to be more than $10 billion, will be directed to the U.S. Treasury for deficit reduction.