June 08, 2011

Gillibrand Announces Key Senate Committee Passes First Responder Communications Bill

Interoperability Legislation Passes Commerce Committee; Would Provide Key Communications Capability for American First Responders

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the Senate Commerce Committee has passed the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act. Senator Gillibrand is a leader of the bipartisan effort to provide America’s first responders with crucial lifesaving communications tools before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and is fighting to pass this legislation together with Commerce Committee Chairman John Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). This legislation fulfills a key outstanding recommendation of the 9/11 Commission Report.

“Today is a critical step in the effort to arm our first responders with the technology and resources they need to save lives,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said.  “Nearly ten years after 9/11, it’s time to bring our first responder’s technology into the 21st Century.  Integral to that commitment is ensuring that local, state and federal first responders can effectively communicate in real time during a national crisis.  I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that those risking their lives have the tools and technology they need to keep our communities safe.”

The 9/11 Commission Report identified insufficient interoperability among communications systems used by first responders during the attacks and rescue efforts. The Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act, S. 911, would set aside additional airwaves for first responders to build a nationwide wireless broadband network.  This network would allow first responders to communicate seamlessly—from coast-to-coast—during a time of crisis.  Firefighters would be able to download detailed floor plans before rushing into burning buildings.  EMTs would be able to send pictures from an accident scene to doctors in the emergency room.  This kind of situational awareness would protect first responders and save lives. 

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Allocate a swath of spectrum, called the “D-Block,” to first responders for the purpose of creating a public safety communications network;

  • Give the Federal Communications Commission the authority to hold incentive auctions based on the voluntary return of spectrum.  The funds raised by these incentive auctions will be billions beyond what is needed to pay for building the public safety network.   Excess funds—to the tune of $10 billion—will be used to pay down our nation’s deficit.