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It's official: Obama signs spectrum, public safety bill

Fri, 02/24/2012 - 2:09pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

President Barack Obama has signed a payroll tax cut extension bill that includes provisions allowing the FCC to auction off television spectrum and the long-awaited creation of a national mobile broadband network for public safety.

Obama's signature made the highly anticipated legislation official this week after it passed the House and Senate last week.

The bill includes a number of items pertaining to the wireless industry.

It gives the FCC authority to conduct voluntary auctions of television broadcast spectrum and makes it easier to upgrade telecommunications equipment on existing towers, among other provisions.

It also sets aside the 700 MHz D-block for public safety and provides $7 billion in federal funding for the construction of a nationwide, interoperable LTE network.

The D-block provisions end a decade-plus fight from the public safety community to get government support for a modern communications network.

Communication failures during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks cost hundreds of first responders their lives after they failed to receive orders to evacuate.

Many public safety officials hoped to get legislation passed by the tenth anniversary of the attacks, but lawmakers in the House and Senate were unable to come to an agreement in time.

Yucel Ors, director of government relations for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, says the public safety community is pleased with the long-overdue legislation.

"This will allow everybody to be operating on the same network – they will receive the same information and be able to be interoperable with police departments, fire departments and federal law enforcement," Ors says. "It's going to be critical."

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