Technology

‘America’s Most Wanted’ host pushes for public safety network

{mosads} Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (D-Mich.) and Commerce and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) support establishing a wireless network for first responders but want to use other spectrum bands so that the D Block can be auctioned to private companies.

Because of the opposition of those key lawmakers, it is unlikely that the House version of spectrum legislation will give the D Block to public safety when it is introduced. Democrats plan to force a vote on the issue through an amendment to the bill. 

Dick Mirgon, a spokesman for the Public Safety Alliance, said he believes there is enough Republican support on both the subcommittee and the full committee for a D Block amendment to pass.

Walsh said devoting the D Block to public safety agencies would save lives.

“The little weak argument is that it would cost money. The real argument is it would have saved some lives at Virginia Tech. It would have saved some lives at Columbine,” Walsh said.

He said if first responders on Sept. 11 had access to an interoperable wireless network, they may have been able to save 500 or 1,000 more lives. The 9/11 Commission identified communication breakdowns as a critical problem that hampered first responders.

“We put a man on the moon, we sent a $4 billion little module to Mars to send back pictures of ice crystals,” Walsh said, arguing lawmakers should make building the network a top priority.

He said public safety agencies should not have to rely on private companies to access the D Block of spectrum. 

“I’ve worked for the media. I’ve had a television show for 23 years. I’ll tell you first hand, it’ll be a cold day in hell before the media or the owners of that D Block spectrum decide to give it back to public service,” he said.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved legislation in June giving the D Block to public safety, but the measure has not come up for a vote in the full Senate.

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