Industry Expresses Concern with Parts of D Block Reallocation Bills (3/22/11)
Tuesday, March 22, 2011 | Comments

By Sandra Wendelken
A section of the House draft legislation that would reallocate the 700 MHz D block spectrum to public safety has many industry experts worried. The section would end public safety’s access to 420 – 512 MHz spectrum eight years after the bill passes.

“There are things in the House bill, H.R. 607, that are troubling, such as giving back UHF spectrum,” said Harlin McEwen, chairman of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST).

Section 207 of H.R. 607 states, “Not later than eight years after the date of the enactment of the act, public-safety entities shall end their use of radio spectrum above 420 MHz and below 512 MHz and begin to use alternative radio spectrum licensed to public-safety service in the 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands.” In addition, federal law-enforcement users must migrate all communications networks to the 700 and 800 MHz bands within 10 years of the bill’s passage.

At an industry conference this month, public-safety officials said the section is included in the bill for financial reasons and it’s likely to be amended before the passage of any final D block legislation. Because auction revenues from the D block are already accounted for, any effort to allocate the D block must create an equal estimated amount of revenue for the U.S. Treasury.

“I don’t think there’s anything to worry about,” said Charles Dowd, deputy chief of the New York City Police Department. “Lawmakers are listening to public safety. Spectrum givebacks are OK, but we need to have time to do it. Public safety has to be comfortable with giving back spectrum not efficiently used.”

However, representatives from the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International are concerned, sending an e-mail to members about the bill and Section 207 specifically. “No agency should be forced to migrate its systems if it will result in an unfunded mandate on the agency or negatively impact current operations,” said the e-mail from the APCO executive board. “APCO International’s leadership is working closely with the bill sponsors to amend Section 207, who have indicated a willingness to address concerns raised by public safety and its partners, including those raised by amateur radio and alarm industry operators.”

Within 10 years after the act passes, the FCC must auction the paired 420 – 440 MHz and 450 – 470 MHz bands. In six years after the bill passes, the FCC must deliver a report detailing the plan for public-safety entities to end their use of spectrum from 170 – 512 MHz and move all use to 700 and 800 MHz bands.

“Of serious concern to the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the inclusion of the 420 – 440 MHz amateur allocation in the list of frequencies to be cleared for auction,” said Dan Henderson, ARRL regulatory information manager. “The 420 – 440 MHz band is not public-safety spectrum and should never have been included in any spectrum swap of public-safety allocations.”

National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) officials also expressed concern with the House bill, in addition to Section 103 in Senate bill 28, which also reallocates the D block to public safety.

“The commission shall allow the narrowband spectrum to be used in a flexible manner, including usage for public-safety broadband communications, subject to such technical and interference protection measures as the commission may require,” reads Section 103 of S. 28.

At least one industry organization applauded H.R. 607 for recognizing utilities and their role in emergency communications. The bill outlines the board of directors of the public-safety broadband licensee, including the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) in the board of directors. “UTC applauds the bill for recognizing utilities as important participants in emergency response and disaster recovery efforts and expands public-safety communications options beyond solely those provided by commercial carriers,” said a UTC e-mail.

Rep. Pete King introduced H.R. 607, and Sen. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV introduced S. 28.

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