Rockefeller Honors First Responders

Asks for Solidarity on Public Safety Bill

September 8, 2011

Rockefeller PortraitWASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today submitted the following statement into the Congressional Record to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 and to urge Members of Congress to pass legislation that would provide the nation’s brave first responders with the spectrum they need to communicate during emergencies: 

Rockefeller’s prepared statement follows: 

“Sunday is September 11th.  It will be 10 years after thousands perished in the worst terrorist attack the United States has ever seen.  It was a day America lost fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, and it was a day we will never forget. 

“With that historic date approaching, I think that it is imperative that we honor the tremendous bravery of our public safety officials.  Every day they are on the front lines in one of our nation’s most pressing battles—protecting our neighborhoods, our communities, and responding fearlessly when tragedy strikes.  And it is around this time every year that we particularly remember their bravery in responding to one of the most horrific tragedies of all.   

“The best way to honor our first responders is to make sure we are giving them the tools they need to be successful, to be safe and to do their job in a way that does not expose them to needless dangers.  Right now, it’s unimaginable, but we’re not doing that.  When it comes to public safety communications, these everyday heroes don’t have the networks they need and depend on. 

“Too often first responders lack the interoperable networks that are essential to providing an effective response in emergencies.  They lack the ability to communicate with one another, with other agencies and across different city and state lines.  This hampers our ability to respond to crisis.  Whether that crisis is a terrorist attack or natural disaster, it puts lives in unnecessary danger.  

“Shouldn’t a firefighter be able to wirelessly download a floor plan of a burning building before running into it?  Shouldn’t a police officer be able to receive an immediate digital snapshot of a dangerous criminal?  And shouldn’t an emergency medical technician be able to receive life-saving medical information on a patient following an accident?  If the average American traveler is able to wirelessly pull up a map to route a summer road trip, why shouldn’t our first responders be able to utilize the same type of technology to save lives? 

“Far too much time has passed for Congress to not act.  That’s why I have been working, side by side with the Commerce Committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, to pass S. 911, the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act.  This bipartisan legislation would implement a nationwide, interoperable wireless broadband communications network for our first responders.  

“It would set aside the 10 megahertz of spectrum known as the ‘D-block’ for public safety to support the network and help foster communications for our first responders across the country.

“It would also give 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 a public safety network and will free up additional spectrum for innovative commercial uses.  In an industry that has created 420,000 new jobs over the past decade, this bill is crucial to that continued growth. 

“In short, this bill marries much needed resources for first responders with smart commercial spectrum policy.  It can keep us safe—and help grow our economy.  That is why this legislation has the support of every major public safety organization across the country—including in my state of West Virginia.  It is also why this bill has strong support from governors and mayors across the country and why we have the support of our President and the Administration.   

“This week, as we come together as a nation to remember and honor the lives lost on 9/11, I also urge my colleagues to support the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act.  And to those who say we cannot afford to do this now, I say we cannot afford not to.  Because this effort is about saving lives.  But if this reason is not compelling enough, it is important to know this: this legislation pays for itself.  According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and even the industry itself, incentive auctions will bring in revenue well above what funding public safety requires, leaving billions over for deficit reduction.  This is a win-win-win.

“In closing, let me say that we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide our public safety officials with the spectrum they need to communicate when tragedy strikes.  And with voluntary incentive auctions we can pair this with funding.   

“Let’s seize this moment.  This is not Republican, this is not Democrat.  It is quite simply the right thing to do.  Let’s do something historic—together.”