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Spectrum Management Bill Threatens Amateur Radio Frequencies

Thu, 02/24/2011 - 9:01am
On February 10, Representative Peter King (R-NY-3), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, introduced HR 607, the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011. The bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which handles telecommunications legislation. HR 607 addresses certain spectrum management issues, including the creation and maintenance of a nationwide Public Safety broadband network. As part of that network, the bill provides for the allocation of the so-called “D-Block” of spectrum in the 700 MHz range for Public Safety use.

The D-Block consists of two, 5-megahertz-wide segments of spectrum (758-763 and 788-793 MHz) that became available when the FCC ended analog television broadcasts in June 2009 and reallocated the 698-806 MHz band for Public Safety and commercial broadband. It was anticipated that the D-Block would be auctioned for commercial use. There are several bills in Congress providing for the allocation of the D-Block for Public Safety use, and HR 607 is one of those. But HR 607 uniquely provides for the reallocation of other spectrum for auction to commercial users, in order to offset the loss of revenue that would occur as the result of the allocation of the D-Block to Public Safety instead of commercial auction. HR 607 lists the paired bands of 420-440 MHz and 450-470 MHz among the bands to be reallocated for commercial auction within 10 years of its passage.

“Of serious concern to the ARRL is the inclusion of the 420-440 MHz amateur allocation in the list of frequencies to be cleared for auction,” said ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND. “The ARRL and the Amateur Radio community certainly support the work of public safety agencies and understand their desire for an interoperable network; however, the inclusion of most of the amateur 70 cm spectrum as one of the replacement bands is illogical and unacceptable. The 420-440 MHz band is not Public Safety spectrum and should never have been included in any spectrum swap of Public Safety allocations.”

Saying that the ARRL Washington team has already begun meeting with key Congressional staff on Capitol Hill, Henderson noted that Amateur Radio already shares the 70 cm band on a secondary basis with the governmental radiolocation services, such as the PAVE PAWS radar systems: “The 70 cm band is a critical and irreplaceable resource for Amateur Radio public service and emergency communications. The specification of the 420-440 MHz band in this legislation is ill-conceived. To be sure, the ARRL will vigorously oppose this legislation in its present form. It is, as evidenced by other legislation, completely unnecessary to the creation of a nationwide Public Safety broadband network or the use by Public Safety of the D-Block for that purpose. The role of the Amateur Service as a partner to Public Safety in the provision of public service and emergency communications necessitates the retention of full access to the entire 420-440 MHz band.”

HR 607 is presently cosponsored by the Homeland Security Committee’s Ranking Member, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS-2) as well as Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1), Yvette Clarke (D-NY-11), Billy Long (R-MO-7), Candice S. Miller (R-MI-10), Laura Richardson (D-CA-37), Mike Rogers (R-AL-3), and Michael Grimm (R-NY-13).

“As we continue to track the progress of HR 607, I urge ARRL members to watch for further information about the bill on the ARRL website,” Henderson said. “When that additional information is released, it will include a request to contact your representative and express opposition to HR 607, as long as it includes a provision to auction off any Amateur Radio spectrum for commercial use. ARRL members may also sign up for the ARRL Legislative Update Newsletter and automatically receive information as it becomes available. Sign up by logging onto the ARRL website and select the ‘Edit Your Profile’ link located at the top of each page. Once on that page, select the ‘Edit Email Subscriptions” tab and click on the box for ARRL Legislative Update.”

The ARRL Legislative Update is prepared on an “as needed” basis to those who have opted-in to receive it. A new edition addressing HR 607 will be forthcoming soon.

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