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Public Safety Net Issue Awaits Congress

Photo: Agita Leimane

Congress starts its official August recess this week, but has a full slate of technology issues to deal with when it reconvenes after Labor Day.

National Journal reports the main issue is legislation that would free up more spectrum to create a national public-safety broadband network that would improve communication between first responders.

Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller hoped to get his legislation for the public safety network approved before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which exposed problems with communication systems used by first responders.

However, Politico reports that will not happen due to sharp differences among lawmakers and intense lobbying from the broadcast and wireless industry.

Different panels have expressed different ideas over how to allocate a chunk of spectrum known as the “D-Block.” Congress previously reserved the spectrum for auction to the private sector, including companies such as AT&T and Verizon.

The legislation that cleared Rockefeller’s committee would cancel the auction and turn over the spectrum to public safety. Politico reports discussions took place between Rockefeller and Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) over the next steps to be taken when Congress returns from recess.

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