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Public safety officials to kick off lobbying blitz for spectrum

Police chiefs, sheriffs, emergency communications professionals and others plan a lobbying blitz next week on Capitol Hill to persuade lawmakers to reallocate a block of spectrum for the creation of a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network.

Members of the Public Safety Alliance plan to meet with lawmakers to urge senators to introduce companion legislation to a bill offered by House Homeland Security ranking member Peter King, R-N.Y. that would allocate the so-called D-block spectrum to public safety officials.

The alliance opposes a proposal from the Federal Communications Commission to auction off the block to commercial bidders and use the proceeds to help finance the creation of a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network. The FCC also has called for allocating 10 megahertz of spectrum for the network and also giving public safety officials priority access to roam on commercial networks during emergencies.

House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., is crafting a bill that would implement the FCC's plans and also authorize additional funding for the public safety network to make up for any shortfalls from the auction of the D-block.

The FCC's proposal is backed by some public safety groups including the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Firefighters. James Barnett, chief of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, recently said the FCC's plan is aimed at ensuring a national interoperable broadband public safety network moves from "talk to reality," by providing a funding source for the network that the commission said could cost as much as $16 billion to build.

The alliance, however, has argued FCC's proposal is inadequate to meet public safety officials' needs and they need more than the 10 megahertz of spectrum for a public safety network.

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