Time to Contact Your Representatives and Senators

With the new Congress in session and the Public Safety Alliance’s renewed efforts to have bills introduced into both houses, it is time for each of us to reach out to our elected officials and tell them that the D Block needs to be reallocated to Public Safety and that some of the network build and operational funding can be obtained from future auctions so the costs associated with this network won’t add to the deficit.

Courtesy of NPSTC, I have obtained a list of the members of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology (see below), which will hold the first hearing on any bill introduced in the House. Unfortunately, none of the committee members are in the district I live in so I cannot send them email from their websites. However, I will be sending the following letter to each of them via FedEx and hope their staffers will read it and pass it on to their bosses.

Letter to Members of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology

Dear Honorable (Name):

I believe that the House will be receiving a bill early in this session of Congress that would reallocate a vital portion of the spectrum to Public Safety. Further, it would fund a portion of a nationwide, fully interoperable broadband network and its ongoing operation with funds allocated from proceeds of future auctions so this funding will have no impact on our growing national debt.

This legislation is of vital importance to the first responder community and to all of us who rely on their swift response to assist us in times of need. While the need for interoperable communications between Public Safety agencies was well publicized after the tragic events of 9/11 and Katrina, the lack of communications interoperability goes back more than thirty years. Each time the FCC freed up more spectrum for the first responder community, it was in a different portion of the spectrum and was not enough to ensure communications between and among agencies.

The FCC’s recent allocation of 700-MHz spectrum for voice communications as well as 10 MHz of spectrum for the construction of a nationwide, fully interoperable broadband network for Public Safety is a good start toward fixing the interoperability issues that continue to plague the first responder community as we approach the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. But 10 MHz of broadband spectrum, contrary to the FCC’s findings, is not enough to enable Public Safety to operate broadband video and data services on a day-to-day basis, let alone during a major disaster.

The solution is for you, as members of Congress, to remove the 10 MHz of spectrum known as the D Block that is adjacent to the existing Public Safety spectrum from the auction pool and reallocate it directly to Public Safety for its use, and also to fund the construction and a portion of the ongoing operating expenses from proceeds of upcoming spectrum auctions.

The FCC’s recommendation in its National Broadband Plan to auction the D Block for commercial purposes and have Public Safety roam on this spectrum during times of need is not a workable plan. In truth, during times of emergencies, the commercial networks are already choked to overflowing with citizens and the press who use this spectrum as they watch the emergency unfold. Even if Public Safety had priority access to this spectrum and the spectrum of other network operators, in order to invoke priority access, the unit requesting priority must be able to be heard by the network, thus there is no guarantee that having priority access means actually receiving that priority access.

It will be better for both the Public Safety community and commercial operators if Public Safety has enough broadband spectrum on which to operate on a daily basis and during emergencies. I have spent the past two years verifying the amount of bandwidth required by Public Safety for emergency events they are called to every day and have found that 10 MHz of spectrum will not be sufficient. Most Public Safety emergencies take place in small, confined areas where coverage from commercial cellular networks is limited to one or two cell sites. Therefore, within each site, Public Safety must have the needed bandwidth available on a daily basis.

I would be pleased to share my many FCC filings and articles I have written about this important issue with you and your staff. I ask that as a member of the Subcommittee on Communications and  Technology you consider this bill carefully and that you understand the implications if it does not pass. In the event that the law that requires the FCC to acution the  D Block is not changed, Public Safety will be denied its one opportunity to have enough contiguous spectrum in which to transmit and receive video and data information while on the scene of emergencies.

I urge you to weigh the issues and to invest in the future of Public Safety interoperable broadband communications. Today, you and your staff have, in your hands, wireless devices that provide you with video and data capabilities and It is also a fact that criminals and those who would cause harm and damage to our nation do have access to this bandwidth which Public Safety cannot access in a reliable manner during emergences. It would make the tenth anniversary of 9/11 coming up in September even more meaningful if Public Safety is awarded the spectrum it needs to protect all of us with better and faster response times, with the ability to share incident data with others who need access to it, and for times when incidents cross jurisdictional lines and multiple agencies need to coordinate their activities.

Again I ask for your favorable vote on this very important matter and will make myself available to you and/or your staff should you have any questions. In the course of your present term in office, I believe your positive action is one of the most important contributions you can make to both the Public Safety community and the public it protects.

Respectfully submitted,
Andrew M. Seybold

House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology

Chair – Greg Walden (OR)
Vice Chair – Lee Terry (NE)
Cliff Stearns (FL)
John Shimkus (IL)
Mary Bono Mack (CA)
Mike Rogers (MI)
Brian Bilbray (CA)
Charlie Bass (NH)
Marsha Blackburn (TN)
Phil Gingrey (GA)
Steve Scalise (LA)
Bob Latta (OH)
Brett Guthrie (KY)
Adam Kinzinger (IL)
Joe Barton (TX)
Fred Upton (MI)

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