U.S. House Passes Bill Repealing T-Band Mandate, Clarifying 9-1-1 Expenditures
Friday, September 25, 2020 | Comments

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an act that would repeal the mandate that the FCC auction off the T-band spectrum 2021.

House Resolution 451, also known as the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act of 2020, would repeal section 6103 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which mandated the FCC to auction off the T-band spectrum by 2021. That act created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and allocated the D-block to public safety for a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN).

With the T-band mandate deadline fast approaching, public safety, industry and even the FCC had urged Congress to repeal the mandate. Public safety argued that there is little suitable spectrum to move T-band public-safety incumbents to, and industry argued that an auction of the spectrum would be unlikely to cover the costs of the auction and relocation.

The bill would also address a second major obstacle facing public safety: states diverting 9-1-1 funding to other sources.

That portion of the act would amend Section 6 of the Wireless Communications and Public-Safety Act of 1999 to make it more difficult for states and other tax jurisdictions to divert 9-1-1 fees collected from consumers to non-9-1-1 purposes.

That act would direct the FCC to, no later than 180 days after enactment of the act, issue final rules for which obligations or expenditures 9-1-1 fees can suitably be used on by states and taxing jurisdictions. Those expenditures should be limited to the support and implementation of 9-1-1 services provided by or in the state or taxing jurisdiction imposing the fee and for operational expenses of public-safety answering points (PSAPs) within that area.

Additionally, the act would require the FCC to, no later than 180 days after the enactment of the act, establish an interagency strike force to study how the federal government can most quickly and effectively end 9-1-1 fee diversion.

The act directs the FCC to consult with public-safety organizations and states and taxes jurisdictions in determining the rules. The act would allow states or other taxing jurisdictions to submit a petition to the FCC asking for a waiver to use the 9-1-1 fees for purposes other than 9-1-1.

9-1-1 fee diversion have been a major issue with several states each year diverting large portions of 9-1-1 fees each year to other uses. The FCC and, especially FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, have pushed states to end the practice and pushed for Congressional action on the practice.

The bill must now be passed by the Senate. Find the full text of the act here.

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