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Rockefeller Plans Public Safety Wireless Spectrum Legislation

The FCC picked up important support to beef up the country's public safety and first responder networks with a pledge by Senator John "Jay" Rockefeller to introduce the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act.

Federal and state governments have been fumbling around for years trying to create an effective wireless public safety network. The FCC tried to auction off a piece of D-Block for public safety agencies in the 700 MHz auction more than two years ago, but there were no serious bidders for the valuable spectrum.

In recent months, the FCC, Congress, some carriers and public safety interests have once again focused on unused spectrum in the D-Block.

Senator Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said his bill will permit the FCC to conduct auctions as proposed in the FCC's National Broadband Plan that would benefit public safety.

The bill would likely call for setting aside 10 MHz of the D-Block for a nationwide wireless network.

"Radio spectrum is a very valuable resource," Rockefeller said in a statement. "It can grow our economy and put new and innovative wireless services in the hands of consumers and businesses. It can enhance our public safety by fostering communications between first responders when the unthinkable occurs. But it is also scarce. That is why we need a forward-thinking spectrum policy that promotes smart use of our airwaves -- and provides public safety officials with the wireless resources they need to keep us safe."

The National Association of Broadcasters has questioned the value of spectrum incentive auctions and hasn't voiced an opinion on the Rockefeller proposal. Verizon Wireless said it will support Rockefeller's bill as proposed.