9/11 Commission member to promote D Block auction

Slade Gorton, a member of the 9/11 Commission, will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday that the D Block of airwaves should be auctioned to commercial providers in order to fund a broadband network for public safety agencies. 

That puts the former Republican senator from Washington at odds with the public safety community, the White House, and key senators, who would prefer to directly allocate those airwaves to emergency groups. 

According to his prepared testimony, Gorton will argue that funding, rather than the amount of airwaves, is what this issue hinges on. 

Strains on state and local government will make it more difficult for public safety agencies to receive funding to build out their networks, making an auction all the more important, according to Gorton. 

"A public safety-only network would take years to develop even if the massive desired public subsidies were available," the testimony says.

Gorton will testify that the D Block auction could raise $3.2 billion for the federal government. 

"The funds received from an auction of the D Block could be used to begin to pay for the build out of the spectrum that first responders have already been allocated if Congress were to determine that to be a higher priority than reducing the deficit," he says.

He will invoke wireless-industry support for the auction.

"Virtually all non-Bell wireless carriers have urged the FCC to pursue the approach endorsed by the National Broadband Plan and expeditiously auction the D Block spectrum," he says, referring to reallocation supporters AT&T and Verizon.