Sen. Jay Rockefeller: Public safety network to be included in payroll deal

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said in a statement Wednesday that he expects the public safety first responder network will be included in the congressional deal to extend the payroll tax holiday.


File photo of Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), center (Chip Somodevilla/GETTY IMAGES)

“We’ve made great progress and are very close to a historic milestone—creation of a new nationwide communications network for our first responders,” Rockefeller said in a statement Tuesday.

“My expectation is that we will be able to include this legislative language in the compromise payroll deal that is close to being finalized.  Although we continue to hash out some of the finer points of the legislation, the end result should be the same: a new communications network that will save lives and generate economic growth.”

Congressional negotiators tentatively agreed late Tuesday to extend the payroll tax holiday, unemployment benefits and Medicare payment rates for doctors.

Rockefeller has been a strong supporter for creation of the network, which would reallocate the D Block of spectrum for use by public safety officials across the country.

In an analyst note, Paul Gallant of the Washington Research Group said that the bill will “almost certainly” authorize the Federal Communications Commission to auction broadcast TV and government spectrum to pay for the network. This move, he said, will not include limits on bidding by large operators, helping wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon strengthen their spectrum portfolios.

Gallant also said that he believes the final bill will be a “hybrid” of the Republican recommendation that the network be governed at the state level and the Democratic plan, which calls for a federal body to oversee the network’s creation and operation.

The auctions are included to help pay for the payroll tax holiday extension package. The network is an added incentive, since it was a key recommendation of the 9/11 commission.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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