Lawmakers Want Money For First Responders Included In Deficit Plan

By Andrea Salazar

A bipartisan group of Hill lawmakers joined first responders from across the nation Tuesday to urge the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to include in its recommendation a bill to better emergency responder communication.

With the so-called “super committee” nearing its Thanksgiving deadline to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in savings, the group pressed support for a measure that would privatize some lines of communication.

Their plan would allow the Federal Communications Commission to auction spectrum, or public airwaves it has domain over, to raise an estimated $24.5 billion — $6.5 billion of which would go toward deficit reduction.

“Any teenager with a smart phone has better technology than our first responders,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said during a news conference today. “They can share more information more quickly than the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. That must change.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) noted that improving nationwide communication is “one of the few recommendations of the 9/11 commission that has not yet been adopted.”

The D-block, a piece of 700 MHz spectrum, would allow first responders nationwide to share information during emergencies.

“We’re using, at best, mid-20th century telecommunications for the 21st century,” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said. “That’s what the D-block changes — a dedicated source of funding to buy the best and highest technology to use it for its highest purpose, and that is for the safety of the American people.

Also present at the news conference were Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and emergency personnel from across the country.

Originally for Talk Radio New Service.

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