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Radio spectrum auctioning resurfaces.

Proposed changes in the system for awarding radio frequencies currently used for municipal police, fire and and emergency channels has become part of an administration plan to fund extended federal unemployment benefits proposed by Congress and threatens to make it more difficult for cities to obtain the frequencies they need.

In an ongoing battle with Congress over the cost of extending unemployment benefits, the Bush administration is suggesting that the FCC auction "under-utilized" radio spectrum to pay for the proposed unemployment extension, which the president has twice vetoed. Extension language is currently being considered in both Houses.

The spectrum, a band of frequencies used by cities for fire, police and emergency channels, is a finite resource allocated to public and private entities. Of late, the telecommunications industry has requested that more "underutilized" government spectrum space be made available for new products such as cellular phones and personal communications systems (PCSs).

The boom in communications technology, and the public demand for these PCS products, threatens to crowd cities out of their allocated emergency frequencies. If required to transfer frequencies due to jammed channels or interference, municipalities' costs for new or re-tooled equipment could be enormous.

Auctioning of radio spectrum puts local governments at an additional disadvantage. Cities and counties could not possibly compete with multi-million dollar industry bids for the valued spectrum.

Yet, Senate Republicans are negotiating with the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to include auctioning of spectrum in S.218, a bill vitally needed by many cities with overburdened public safety channels.

As passed by the House, and initially backed by Senate Democrats, S.218 would provide new frequencies to local government and commercial interests. A new proposal by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) would make auctioning the primary method of allocating the new frequencies.

It is imperative that Congressional Members are made aware of the importance of preserving municipal safety channels and are urged to support S.218 as originally proposed. NLC is working with the American Public-Safety Communications Officers (APCO) to develop Senate language which will allow auctioning, only after public safety channels are allocated and protected.

A packet of information on the spectrum issue is available. Call Anna Ferrera at NLC for details (202) 626-3020.
COPYRIGHT 1991 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:plan to auction radio frequencies used for local police, fire, and emergency channels
Author:Ferrera, Anna Pulido
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 11, 1991
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