Senate Commerce Committee Approves Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act

An interoperable public safety network is one step closer to becoming a reality. On June 8, the Senate Commerce Committee overwhelmingly approved S.911, the Public Safety and Wireless Innovation Act. The bill provides the FCC with authority to auction off spectrum that broadcasters voluntarily relinquish, and to use a portion of the proceeds to help fund a nationwide public safety network.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, the bill's sponsor and Commerce Committee Chairman, is happy with its progress:

"I am glad that we have moved this bill out of the Committee and I intend to have conversations with leadership immediately about timing for a vote by the full Senate. In West Virginia, communications efforts are hampered by the terrain and lack of broadband access. This bill would address these hurdles and make it easier for us to respond in the event of mine disasters, flooding emergencies, and other crises our citizens face."

In addition to allocating 10 megahertz of the D-block spectrum for public safety, the bill also:

  • Directs the FCC to establish standards that allow public safety officials, when not using the network, to lease capacity on a secondary, but preemptible basis to non-public safety entities.
  • Provides the FCC with incentive auction authority, which allows broadcasters voluntarily to give up their airwaves in exchange for a portion of the spectrum auction proceeds.
  • Allocates funds from these incentive auctions — in conjunction with other sources — to fund the construction and maintenance of the nationwide, interoperable, wireless broadband public safety network.
  • Directs surplus revenue from spectrum auctions, estimated to be more than $10 billion, to the U.S. Treasury for deficit reduction.

The Communications Workers of America supports Sen. Rockefeller's bill and the creation of a interoperable public safety network.

The bill now moves to the full Senate.

Senate Committee OKs Spectrum 'Incentive Auction' Bill (PC Mag)

Rockefeller Joined by West Virginia Public Safety Leaders For Approval of New Network Legislation at Commerce Committee