Lawmakers of both parties have announced separate legislation to create a nationwide public safety broadband network, after failing to agree on a bipartisan solution. Many had hoped the network would be passed by the deficit “supercommittee” and were disappointed when the panel did not reach a consensus .
On Tuesday, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) introduced a discussion draft of the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum bill, which would allocate the D block of spectrum to the network. Meanwhile, Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced a separate bill, the Wireless Innovation and Public Safety Act, that would also create a nationwide public safety broadband network.
One main difference between the bills lies in the treatment of unlicensed spectrum. The Eshoo/Waxman bill allows for the Federal Communications Commission to conduct incentive auctions to make spectrum available for unlicensed use. Walden’s bill requires that any auctioned spectrum be used for licensed purposes only.
The Senate version of a bill proposing this kind of network, S. 911, cleared the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee but has not come up for a vote in the Senate. On Tuesday, the office of committee chairman Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said that it is still trying to get provisions from that bill wrapped into a larger deficit or other omnibus package.
“Given the movement on spectrum in the House this week, things are looking very good,” Rockefeller’s communications director, Vincent Morris, said in an e-mail to reporters.
Sean Kirkendall of the Public Safety Alliance, which has championed the creation of the network, said Tuesday that the group has endorsed the Wireless Innovation and Public Safety Act. He added that he is encouraged by the week’s activities and looks forward to working with Walden as his draft progresses.
In a statement, Waxman expressed hope that the committee might still work out a bipartisan solution. “Although we are still hoping for bipartisan action on this critical issue, today we are laying out what we believe is the best path forward to resolve this problem,” he said, adding that he hopes the bill will gain some Republican support.