December 2, 2020 – Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel of the Federal Communications Commission – and who appears to be considered for elevation to chairman of the agency under President-elect Joe Biden – advocated that the T-Band auction be stopped by Congress and that the status of 911 responders be changed.
Speaking at a conference of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials on Tuesday, Rosenworcel reiterated that there has long been bipartisan support for not having auctions in the T-Band.
Earlier this year, the commission’s current chairman, Ajit Pai, issued proposed rule-making to regarding the T-Band auction mandate in the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, also called the Spectrum Act.
According to Rosenworcel, when the law was first created, it was assumed that first responders would not need those airwaves by 2021. However, as of this month, about a dozen major metropolitan areas are still using them, including big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Pittsburg, Houston, Dallas, and others.
Unless the law is changed, the FCC will be required by law to auction off those airwaves in the 470-512 MegaHertz band, whether they want to or not.
Screenshot from the webinar
Commissioner Rosenworcel called upon Congress to fix the law so the agency doesn’t have to hold the T-Band Auction in a few months.
If that doesn’t work out, she said the FCC should work collaboratively with Congress and first responders to ensure that the auction doesn’t threaten their continued use of these airwaves.
She also offered several tools to make this work, like setting reserve prices, looking at auction eligibility, and upfront payments.
Funding 911 upgrades
Rosenworcel was optimistic when it came to funding for 911 upgrades. For infrastructure, there was “no better expenditure than improving public safety.” She projected that if the U.S. were to develop some national program to stimulate and improve 911 infrastructure, it would touch every state and every community.
She cited current legislation like the NG-911 act, The Moving Forward America Act, and the Lift America Act, as reasons she believes 911 infrastructure could be upgraded for “everyone everywhere.”
“We are on the cusp of a new generation of public safety, said Rosenworcel. “Next generation 911 can radically improve the public safety of all of us who call that number.”