FCC's Pai calls on congress to protect public safety and repeal T-Band mandate

WASHINGTON, December 2, 2019—Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai issued the following statement calling on Congress to repeal the mandate to auction T-Band spectrum and allow public safety officials to continue saving lives through T-Band communications:

“In 2012, Congress passed legislation requiring the FCC to reallocate and auction T-Band spectrum used for decades by public safety licensees and fund the relocation of those licensees elsewhere.  The agency has extensively analyzed the T-Band and concluded that moving forward is not viable—relocation costs for public safety licensees would likely far exceed any potential auction revenue, making it impossible to fund the relocation and comply with the mandate.  The Government Accountability Office has agreed—reporting to Congress that the T-Band mandate is unworkable and could deprive first responders of their current ability to communicate by radio.”

“Because of these concerns, I’m calling on Congress to repeal the T-Band mandate.  I’m hopeful that Congress can resolve this matter without delay. Doing so will not only protect public safety communications in the T-Band but will also allow our dedicated auction staff to focus in 2020 on auctions that will make new airwaves available for 5G, like spectrum in the 3.5 GHz and 3.7 GHz bands.”  

The agency issued a Public Notice today suspending the processing of applications for T-Band licenses, including renewals, in accordance with the current T-Band mandate to hold an auction in 2021.

Additional background:

  • The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Spectrum Act) required the Commission to reallocate T-Band spectrum used by public safety licensees and “begin a system of competitive bidding” for reallocated spectrum by 2021 (the T-Band mandate).

  • Wireless use of the T-Band consists of otherwise unused broadcast spectrum in TV channels 14-20 in 11 cities.  It contains approximately 925 public safety entities and 700 industrial/business entities. T-Band provides push-to-talk, mission-critical voice communications for local government, law enforcement, and first responder entities (including fire management, emergency medical, road maintenance, transit, public works, and others).

  • The GAO report, Required Auction of Public Safety Spectrum Could Harm First Responder Capabilities, is available here

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