WASHINGTON, DC — July 17, 2019 — Congressman Eliot Engel, a top member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, this week questioned an official from the Federal Communications Commission on the T-Band spectrum at a hearing entitled “Our Wireless Future: Building a Comprehensive Approach to Spectrum Policy.” Engel emphasized that auctioning the T-Band spectrum would endanger crucial public safety communications, especially in New York City and Westchester County, and cost billions of dollars.
Below is a transcript of his delivered remarks from the hearing:
“T-Band is radio spectrum located on portions of the 470 to 512 Megahertz band. For decades, in eleven major metropolitan areas around the country, the T-Band has supported vital public safety radio communications for our first responders. It allows police, firefighters and EMS to communicate even when cell towers, electricity, or the internet are down. It functions deep underground in tunnels and inside concrete buildings.
“But now, thanks to an outdated provision in the law, the FCC is required to reallocate and auction the T-Band spectrum by 2021. I have heard from my constituents back home in New York – in Westchester and The Bronx – that this auction would endanger crucial public safety communications. Options for replacement spectrum are extremely limited. New York City police, fire, and emergency management departments have said that there is no alternative spectrum available for them. The General Accounting Office (GAO) completed a study last month which found that auctioning off the T-band radio spectrum without the availability of alternative spectrum would jeopardize public safety in major metropolitan areas around the country.
“The GAO also concluded that even if alternative available spectrum were available, public safety users are likely to bear significant costs associated with relocating and reestablishing interoperability. The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) calculated in 2013, and again in 2016, that the cost of relocating public safety operations off the T-Band would be $5.9 billion. In early 2019, the FCC also placed the total cost between $5 billion and $6 billion.
“To deal with this problem, the GAO concluded that Congress should pass legislation allowing first responders to continue using the T-Band radio spectrum. I wrote a bill last year with Mr. Zeldin and others, the ‘Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act,’ which would allow law-enforcement, fire officials, and EMS to continue using the T-Band. A companion bill was later introduced in the Senate. Neither of those bills got a vote last Congress, but I’ve reintroduced the bill with Mr. Zeldin and others again this Congress. It’s H.R. 451.
“Our bipartisan legislation is backed by law-enforcement and fire department officials from different jurisdictions across the country. It is my hope that we will move this critical bill forward and allow our first-responders to continue using the T-Band spectrum to communicate effectively and keep us safe.”
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SOURCE: Bryant Daniels, Communications & Deputy District Director, Congressman Eliot L. Engel