Last updated: May 17, 2011 - 10:27pm
Senators John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called on colleagues in the House and Senate to join them in passing legislation to provide America’s first responders with lifesaving communications tools before the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
“It’s embarrassing that any teenager with a smartphone has more communications capability than our firefighters, police officers and EMTs,” said Senator Rockefeller. “It’s time we finally fulfill one of the last major recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and give our first responders the tools they need to do their jobs.”
The bill -- the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act (S. 28) -- will set aside additional airwaves for first responders to build a nationwide wireless broadband network. This network will allow first responders to communicate seamlessly -- from coast-to-coast -- during a time of crisis. Firefighters will be able to download detailed floor plans before rushing into burning buildings. EMTs will be able to send pictures from an accident scene to doctors in the emergency room. This kind of situational awareness will protect first responders and save lives.
Specifically, the bill will:
- Allocate a swath of spectrum, called the “D-Block”, to first responders for the purpose of creating a public safety communications network;
- Give the Federal Communications Commission the authority to hold incentive auctions based on the voluntary return of spectrum. The funds raised by these incentive auctions will be billions beyond what is needed to pay for building the public safety network. Excess funds—to the tune of $10 billion—will be used to pay down our nation’s deficit.
Separately, Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) are working on an amendment to the bill designed to ensure rural areas benefit from the legislation.
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