3 New York Lawmakers Introduce T-Band Repeal Bill
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 | Comments

New York congressmen Reps. Eliot Engel, Lee Zeldin and Peter King introduced the Don’t Break up the T-Band Act, legislation that would repeal a provision of a 2012 law to allow law enforcement, fire officials and EMS to continue using the T-band spectrum to operate their radios for day-to-day life-saving operations.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 that created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) also directed the FCC to auction the UHF T-band spectrum at 470 – 512 MHz by 2021. This would endanger public-safety communications in major metropolitan areas across the United States, the congressmen said.

The T-band is a portion of spectrum used in 11 heavily populated metropolitan areas, covering more than 90 million Americans, to support critical public-safety communications and provide regional interoperability among first responders. Public-safety agencies have spent numerous years and hundreds of millions of dollars of federal, state and local funds to plan and build T-band networks. The spectrum is essential to public safety and for many public-safety entities there is nowhere else to move, the lawmakers said in a statement.

“This legislation allows our first responders to take advantage of emerging telecommunications technologies while still retaining their radio communications,” said King. “In addition, it will remove the requirement to re-work emergency communications infrastructure which would be an overwhelming financial burden to our local governments.”

“The safety of our city depends on our use of the T-band, and taking it away would be unconscionable,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The city has invested millions of dollars in ensuring our first responders can communicate in all types of emergencies, and this resource is key to our ability to keep our communities safe. I want to thank the congressional leaders who are working to protect public safety through HR 5085.”

Several industry groups applauded the legislation. Members of the National Public Safety Communications Council (NPSTC) thanked the lawmakers for introducing the bill. If enacted as drafted, the act would repeal section 6103 in Title VI of P.L. 112-96, which mandates that the FCC begin an auction of the public-safety spectrum in the T-band by Feb. 21, 2021, and clear public-safety operations from that band within two years of auction close.

A 2013 NPSTC T-band report said it would cost $5.9 billion to move public-safety operations in the 11 metro areas where UHF T-band spectrum is used to new frequencies.

The Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) asked its members to contact their representatives to advise them of the merits of the bill.

“As EWA has argued previously, it is unclear whether there is any suitable replacement spectrum that is both comparable and in sufficient quantity in the 11 T-band markets to accommodate relocation of both public-safety and business/industrial land transportation (B/ILT) incumbents,” EWA said in an email. “Further, the act neither makes mention of B/ILT incumbents nor any monetary provision for the relocation these incumbents.”

EWA prepared a brief customizable message and additional resources, including a link to the directory of the U.S. House of Representatives and lists of the members of the House Homeland Security Committee and the emergency preparedness, response and communications subcommittee, which will report on the bill.

“While very early in the legislative process, the introduction of this bill itself represents progress,” EWA said.

“The NSA is united with other national public-safety organizations behind the desire to see H.R. 5085 succeed, and we will continue to fight for public safety’s access to the best available technology to keep the public safe,” said Jonathan F. Thompson, executive director and CEO, National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA).

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