Congress Gives the D Block to Public Safety
Published: 2/17/2012
Author: The International Association of Fire Chiefs
I congratulate the IAFC and the public safety community on this remarkable success. Let us remember the importance of our IAFC membership dues and the critical fire service issues they help support.

Jim Critchley
President, Western Division of the IAFC

A message from IAFC President Al Gillespie to the Members of the IAFC

Fairfax, Va., Feb. 17, 2012- It's my pleasure to tell you that after many years of hard work by the IAFC and others, Congress has agreed to allocate the D Block to public safety and support the development of a mission-critical, nationwide public safety broadband network. These provisions are included in the conference report to the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (H.R. 3630), which the House and Senate will vote on today.

The passage of this legislation will bring public safety communications capability into the 21st century with a new national architecture. This outcome is the culmination of a major effort over the past five years by the IAFC and other national public safety organizations through the Public Safety Alliance. The hallmarks of this successful effort were trust and cooperation among the key national public safety organizations, a consistent message, and the persistent effort of the many fire chiefs across the nation. 

There are a lot of people to thank today, but most of all, I would like to thank the IAFC members across the country who wrote to their federal elected officials, met with them in their districts and in Washington, attended hearings in uniform and acted when we needed you the most.

Today’s legislation demonstrates how much power the simple act of making a phone call, attending a meeting and sharing your experiences in the field can have. Because of your efforts, both big and small, we have created a paradigm shift that will create a more effective emergency response system and ensure safer communities.

I would also like to thank our members outside of the U.S. for understanding how important this was to the majority of our members. For many years, you have patiently listened to the ongoing debates and the issue briefs, and you have offered your moral support to the organization’s focus on this issue. I can't thank you enough for your selfless dedication to your brothers and sisters in the U.S. 

I would specifically like to thank Chief Jeff Johnson, IAFC President 2009-2010, for his tireless work, passion and leadership on this effort and recognize the extraordinary work of the IAFC Government Relations team.

About the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011

Here is a summary of the provisions included in Title IV of the conference report:

  • The D Block will be allocated to public safety. 
  • Governance of the network by a new First Responder Network Authority will be within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Department of Commerce. 
  • Incentive auctions will provide $7 billion for construction of the network.
  • In approximately 11 years, public safety organizations will be required to give back spectrum currently in use in the T Band. The agreement includes provisions to pay for their relocation to the 700 MHz band. 

It's important to recognize that we reluctantly had to agree to give back some narrowband spectrum as the price for establishing a nationwide, interoperable broadband network. The agreement does contain provisions to ease this transition for the public safety users of the T Band. 

A Victory for Our Communities

Today’s victory is not just a victory for the fire service; thanks to our allies in public safety, government and industry, it's a victory for our communities.

In addition to our members, we received excellent support from national organizations representing governors, mayors and county governments as well as commercial carriers and equipment manufacturers. 

The administration, led by the president and vice president, worked closely with public safety and were instrumental in developing the structure for the D Block allocation.  In addition, a bipartisan group of members of Congress, led by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and the Congressional Fire Services Caucus leadership, were convinced that action for public safety had to be taken. We greatly appreciate the efforts of Senator Rockefeller and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) in working with the bipartisan leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House and Senate leadership to come to agreement on the final public safety provisions that will become law. Many thanks go to them. 

What’s Next?

The bill agreed to by the conferees goes to the House and Senate for final passage, which is expected today. 

I encourage you to voice your approval for passage of H.R. 3630 and to reach out to those in your network to thank them for their support.

Passage of this bill will be a landmark achievement, but there is still much work to be done to make a national broadband network a reality. The IAFC will continue to keep you updated, and I thank you for your continued support of this effort.

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