Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

House, Senate Committees Set Interoperability Dates: Both Bills Include Money for Equipment for First Responders

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

House, Senate Committees Set Interoperability Dates: Both Bills Include Money for Equipment for First Responders

Article excerpt

The Senate and House Committees on Commerce passed legislation that would set a specific date for broadcasters to return the frequencies to public safety agencies for emergency communication.

The House language sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) would set December 31, 2008, as the deadline while the Senate bill sponsored by Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) designated April 2009 as the deadline. Both bills would provide funding for interoperable communication equipment.

The National League of Cities has been pushing for an earlier date certain of December 31, 2006, or as close to that date as possible, to clear the public safety spectrum, but is pleased there is progress in setting a firm date.

NLC also worked to include funding for interoperable communication equipment and will continue to push for more funding for such equipment for the nation's first responders.

By a vote of 42 to 0, the House Committee approved an amendment offered by Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) and Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) that would set aside $500 million for interoperable communications for local public safety agencies.

NLC and its coalition partners from the public safety community helped craft the amendment language, which would also create a consistent definition of "interoperability" and a matching funding scheme whereby the federal government commits eighty-percent of the funds. The negotiated language also specifically permits the use of interoperable funding for training and exercises.

Upton, chairman of the Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee, also committed with NLC and other key stakeholders to secure $1 billion for interoperable equipment when the House language is reconciled with the Senate bill, which sets aside $1. …

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