First responders lobby supercommittee, 'encouraged' about prospects for public safety network


"Members and staff of the supercommittee expressed guarded optimism for the inclusion of the allocation of the D Block and funding for the [Public Safety Broadband Network] derived from auction of other spectrum if and when the committee delivers a plan,” Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald of Story County, Iowa, said in a statement. “Indications have suggested that the committee will need to include revenue if it is to come to a workable final package, and individual Republican and Democratic members have increasingly announced support for raising revenue as well as identifying spending cuts to reduce the nation’s deficit.”

Building a public safety network would be part of a broader plan to auction spectrum used by television broadcasters to mobile broadband companies. These auctions could raise billions of dollars to help the government reduce its deficit and free up more airwaves to accommodate the growing demand for wireless devices.

The D Block is a prime chunk of spectrum, or airwaves, and public safety officials say it should be used to build their network. But critics of giving the D Block 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 supercommittee is trying to meet a Nov. 23 deadline to find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts.