Sen. Rockefeller Presses for Spectrum Bill

Legislation would set aside spectrum for first responder net

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was working so hard to sell his spectrum bill during a press conference Tuesday that he all but raised the flag and sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" to it. 

Surrounded by co-sponsors of the bill—Sens, Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Amy Klobuchar, D.-Minn., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.—Rockefeller said he is looking to pass the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act, before the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The bill would set aside a portion of the spectrum for first responders and authorize the Federal Communications Commission to auction off spectrum voluntarily relinquished by TV broadcasters.

"After 9-11, we made a lot of improvements in public safety, but there has been no change in the greatest fault at ground zero and that was a totally un-interoperable wireless network," Rockefeller said. "We have a once in an opportunity lifetime to do this and it's now."

Rockefeller is running out of time to get his bill through, and he knows it. In the last few weeks alone, his office must have sent out at least a dozen statements about the press conference. He plans to mark-up the bill next week in the Senate Commerce Committee, which he chairs.

But while the bill's prospects in the Senate may be positive, it faces an uncertain trajectory in the House, where Reps. Fred Upton, R.-Mich., chairman of the House Commerce & Energy Committee, and Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications & Technology, would rather auction off the spectrum that Rockefeller wants to give away for public safety purposes.

Some of Rockefeller's statements Tuesday may have been addressed to those House Republicans, as he pointed out that his proposed auction would still leave between $9 and $10 billion for deficit reduction.

"What's not to like about this?" Rockefeller said. "It doesn't cost the public a dime."