Rockefeller, Hutchison urge supercommittee to adopt spectrum bill

"The measure provides significant short-term and long-term benefits to our nation’s fiscal health, economic and job growth, and public safety," the lawmakers wrote.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates their bill would reduce the deficit by $6.5 billion, but the lawmakers told the supercommittee they are willing to amend the measure to generate as much as $10 billion for deficit reduction.

Broadcasters say they would support spectrum auctions only if they are given strong protections to ensure that no television station is forced off the air against its will.

Building a nationwide broadband network is a top priority for public safety officials because it would allow them to communicate using video and data during emergencies. It would also help first responders from different agencies communicate with each other.

The 9/11 Commission Report identified communications breakdowns as a critical problem that hampered first responders during the terrorist attacks of 2001. Rockefeller and Hutchison fought unsuccessfully to pass their bill before the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

While most lawmakers support building a nationwide network for first responders, using the D Block to do it is more controversial. The D Block is a prime chunk of spectrum, and critics of giving the spectrum to public safety argue that the spectrum could be leased to higher bidders to raise more revenue for the government. They say public safety agencies should be given other spectrum bands for their network.

The Rockefeller-Hutchison spectrum bill passed their committee in June but has not come up for a vote in the full Senate.  

The supercommittee is looking to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit.