WASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate urging Members of Congress to pass legislation that would provide public safety officials with the spectrum they need to communicate during emergencies. The Chairman’s remarks as prepared for delivery follow:
“Tomorrow is March 11. For most of us, this date carries no special significance. But tomorrow is exactly six months before the ten year anniversary of 9/11.
“It is six months from the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack ever and a day that we as a nation will never forget. It is six months from a date when we will honor the memory of those whose lives came to an end—and the way we came together as a Nation to heal.
“With that historic date approaching, I think that it is important that we honor the tremendous bravery of all public safety officials. Our police. Our firefighters. Our emergency medical technicians. And the countless others who fought that day to keep us safe—and who work every day to protect us from harm.
“The best and simplest way to honor them 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, we’re not doing that. When it comes to public safety communications, these everyday heroes don’t have the networks they need.
“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.
“I believe it is time to do something about it. That’s why I introduced S. 28, the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act. This legislation does two things.
“First, it sets aside the 10 megahertz of spectrum known as the ‘D-block’ to public safety to support a nationwide, interoperable wireless broadband network that will help foster communications for first responders across the country.
“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.
“In short, this bill marries resources for first responders with good 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. That is why this bill also has strong support from governors and mayors across the country. And that is why we now have the support of the Administration.
“So I 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 White House 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 incentive auctions we can pair this with funding.
“To my colleagues, I say let’s seize this moment. This is not Republican, this is not Democrat. It is simply the right thing to do. Let’s do something historic—together. And let’s get it done before the tenth anniversary of 9/11.”