Safety Groups Cite Bin Laden Death In Emergency Network Push

Public safety groups are using the death of Osama bin Laden as a peg for their push for legislation that would create a nationwide interoperable public safety network funded with money from incentive auctions of broadcast spectrum.

The bills they are pushing for are S. 28, sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D- W. Va.), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, and H.R. 607, sponsored by Peter King (R-NY), chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

"The thousands of men and women of public safety nationwide applaud the bi-partisan, long-term effort of the Obama and Bush Administrations for the capture and execution of al Qaeda lead terrorist Osama bin Laden," the alliance said in a statement.

The administration has recognized that bin Laden's death could prompt a backlash among his terrorist followers, and the alliance seconded that in calling for action. They cited language from the March testimony of 9/11 Commission co-chairsThomas Kean and Lee Hamilton in which they said: "We must not approach these urgent matters at a leisurely pace. We don't know when the next attack or disaster will strike. Further delay is intolerable."

The FCC has tried to auction spectrum reclaimed in the DTV transition for a public-private partnership to create an interoperable emergency broadband network, but failed to draw a minimum bid. Current law requires that spectrum to be auctioned, but King and Rockefeller and the Public Safety Alliance want to change the law to allow it to be allocated, with the funding to build and maintain it coming from incentive auctions of broadcast spectrum as part of the reclamation of that spectrum for wireless broadband.

The White House has weighed in favor of allocating the spectrum to a public safety network and to use $7 billion of the auction proceeds to fund that network.

Also arguing for action is the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and how it might look if Congress had taken no action on one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which was the creation of the network.

Broadcasters are concerned about how voluntary spectrum reclamation is going to be, but certainly want the FCC to get the authority to compensate them for whatever take-back there is.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.