Key Republican backs reallocation of valuable D Block for public safety use

A GOP lawmaker influential in communications policy has thrown his weight behind devoting a valuable chunk of the airwaves to public safety purposes.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security's Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications subcommittee, has backed a position endorsed by the public safety community.

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He says the best way to build a mobile broadband network for police and fire fighters is to allocate the valuable D Block of spectrum to this purpose. That's as opposed to auctioning off the D Block and asking public safety to share the airspace with commercial providers. 

“Reallocating the D Block would finally provide an opportunity to reduce the cost and complexity of first-responder communications rather than continuing the costly and ineffective need to operate multiple systems to allow firefighters and police officers to communicate with one another,” Bilirakis said.

Others supporting D Block reallocation include the White House, House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), and Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va). 

The auction option was supported in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) National Broadband Plan and in draft legislation circulated by House Energy and Commerce committee ranking member Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) last year. Energy and Commerce Republicans also back the auction.

Auction proponents say their plan is cheaper. But Bilirakis' statement suggests those who favor allocation will make a cost argument as well, based on the notion that streamlining public-safety communications could reduce waste.