by Mitchel Herckis
Congress is closer than ever before to passing legislation that would lay the groundwork for a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband communications network. NLC and its allies have been advocating for the network as an important step for the nation's safety.
A recent report from the Telecommunications Industry Association
(TIA) estimates that beyond the importance to the safety of our nation, the funding and construction of a 20 MHz Public Safety Broadband Network would result in approximately "100,000 good-paying technology jobs, averaging a $70,000 salary per job," as well as provide savings to state and local taxpayers of nearly $2 billion per year.
NLC, along with a coalition of first responders and the major organizations representing state and local governments, has been advocating for the reallocation of the 700 MHz D-Block for the creation of a nationwide public safety broadband network.
The lack of a nationwide public safety network stands as one of the only unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
During the past year, the creation of the network gained endorsements from the White House, the Federal Communications Commission and key members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. With this significant support, it appears that legislation to create the network could move forward despite the current gridlock in Congress.
While the public safety benefits have been discussed for some time, the recent TIA report, entitled, "The Contributions of Information and Communication Technologies To American Growth, Productivity, Jobs and Prosperity," shows the significant economic benefits of constructing the network.
Beyond the 100,000 jobs the network would directly create, the TIA report suggests additional "indirect or spillover benefits of an estimated $4 billion to $8 billion per year" to the economy. It also estimates the network would reduce costs to state and local law enforcement by increasing "the productivity of police and fire agencies by at least 1 percentage point per year, producing direct efficiency savings of nearly $2 billion per year."
In addition, the indirect economic benefits of the network could mean another $2 billion to $6 billion nationwide.
While several bills to create a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network exist, NLC and its allies support a bill introduced by Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) entitled "The Strengthening Public-safety and Enhancing Communications Through Reform, Utilization, and Modernization Act" (S. 911). This bill would not only reallocate the critical 700 MHz D-Block of radio spectrum to public safety to ensure a reliable nationwide network, but also provide billions of dollars for its construction and maintenance through facilitating negotiations for broadcasters to sell underutilized spectrum to wireless companies.