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DHS Bill Contains Call for D Block Allocation

A Department of Homeland Security authorization bill that passed out of the House Homeland Security Committee Thursday included an amendment calling for allocating D block spectrum for public safety, but it did not have the force of law according to a copy of the legislation.

That should not be a huge surprise given that one of the amendment's backers was Committee Chair, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who is a big backer of allocation over auction of the spectrum, having introduced a bill to that effect.

What passed was not a legal mandate to allocate but instead a "sense of Congress" that "Federal resources should be allocated to improve first responder interoperable communications and the D Block spectrum should be reallocated for the construction of a national interoperable public safety wireless broadband network as expeditiously as possible."

The bill now goes to the full House.

King has been pushing hard for the creation of that interoperable public safety network, which was a recommendation of the 911 Commission.

Separately, a Senate bill that would mandate allocating that spectrum as part of an incentive spectrum auction process to compensate broadcasters for giving up spectrum to wireless broadband is being pitched as a revenue raiser to the deficit-reduction supercommittee.

The FCC will need the will, rather than the sense, of the Congress to allocate since current law -- DTV transition legislation dating from 2006 -- requires it to auction that D block spectrum for a public-private partnership. The FCC tried to auction it once before but failed to draw a minimum bid.