The movement in favor of wireless spectrum in the 700 MHz “D-block” reallocation gained momentum in Congress as House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-NY) introduced legislation last Thursday that mandates reallocation of the D-block to public safety entities and provides $11 billion in funds to construct and operate a nationwide public safety broadband network in that frequency band. The bipartisan measure, known as the First Responders Act of 2011 (H.R. 607), follows the introduction of a similar bill last month by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) that also calls for direct allocation of the D-block to public safety. Such reallocation would be in lieu of an FCC auction of that spectrum to a commercial entity that would share its network with public safety. Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and former Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) are soon expected to follow with their own D-block reallocation bill. Sources also indicate that Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) is preparing a bill that, in addition to directing reallocation of D-block channels to public safety, provides $20 billion in network funding to be administered through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Among other things, the King bill would (1) require the FCC to reallocate the D-block within 60 days of the legislation being signed into law, (2) consolidate public safety spectrum use within the 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands by requiring public safety entities to relocate their operations from other frequency bands within specified timeframes, and (3) mandate auctions of spectrum vacated by public safety entities in the 420-512 MHz bands. To promote cost efficiency and interoperability, the bill also directs the FCC to adopt rules that would allow public safety agencies to share their channels with commercial users as long as public safety retains priority access to those channels. At the same time, the bill recommends that the FCC “encourage any public safety licensee or spectrum lessee to consider using existing or planned commercial infrastructure” in addition to dedicated public safety channels. Asserting that D-block reallocation is “the only assured way of meeting public safety’s needs for sufficient spectrum,” King said, “this legislation is exactly what America’s first responders have long advocated.”