Members of the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation, sponsored by committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and ranking committee member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), that would require the FCC to allocate the 700 MHz D-block directly to the public safety sector. The bill would also mandate incentive auctions of broadcast TV spectrum that would help pay for construction of a nationwide, interoperable public safety wireless broadband network. Bipartisan approval of the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act (S. 911) came after a lengthy mark-up session at which committee members considered more than 80 amendments and adopted 17 that deal largely with aspects of the non-profit (and quasi-federal) Public Safety Broadband Corporation (PSBC) that will manage the public safety network. The bill also mandates auctions of other spectrum blocks that include the 1755-1855 MHz band, while providing $12 billion in federal funds to finance deployment of the public safety network. Stressing that the legislation also contributes $10 billion toward deficit reduction, Rockefeller asserted that the bill “basically doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything.” Among the amendments added to the bill are provisions that would (1) reduce license terms for the PSBC from 15 years to ten, (2) require the PSBC chairperson to be a non-federal member, (3) require the PSBC’s board to be comprised of both rural and urban members, and (4) direct the PSBC to leverage existing commercial wireless infrastructure. Despite the high level of bipartisan support, there were a few detractors such as Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), who described S.911 as “a spending bill which costs more than $17 billion” and that would earmark an estimated $14.5 billion in auction revenues toward the PBSC-run network “that would otherwise be used to reduce the deficit.” Notwithstanding DeMint’s sentiments, Hutchison applauded the bill as “the most significant piece of telecommunications legislation in a decade.” Praising the bill’s passage, Senator John McCain (R-AZ)—who introduced separate, but similar legislation with Senator Jay Lieberman (I-CT) last month—promised to work with Lieberman and his Senate colleagues to combine the two bills, emphasizing that the goal is “to ensure the final bill is fully paid for and offers funding for deficit reduction in addition to spectrum and funding to first responders.”