FCC Calls on Congress to Repeal Mandated Sale of T-Band Spectrum in Accordance with Rep. Zeldin’s Bipartisan Legislation

December 4, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON - This week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai called on Congress to repeal the mandate to auction the T-Band spectrum and allow public safety officials to continue saving lives using T-Band communications.

Currently, the FCC is required to reallocate and auction the T-Band spectrum by 2021 due to a provision of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which mandates the sale of the T-Band spectrum and would endanger public safety communications in major metropolitan areas across the United States, including New York City and Long Island. The T-Band is a portion of spectrum used in 11 heavily populated metropolitan areas, including New York, covering over 90 million Americans, to support critical public safety communications (i.e. police, fire and other first responder’s radios) and provide regional interoperability among first responders. Public safety agencies have spent numerous years and hundreds of millions of dollars of federal, state and local funds to plan and build out these T-Band networks. The result is battle-tested public safety networks that provide resilient coverage, reliability and regional interoperability. This spectrum is essential to public safety and for many public safety entities there is nowhere else to move, which is why Reps. Zeldin, Engel, and King  introduced the “Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act” to preserve the T-Band spectrum before it is reallocated for good

FCC Chairman Pai said, “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.” 

Congressman Zeldin (R, NY-1) said, “Our first responders bravely and selflessly put their lives on the line each and every day to protect our communities, and our first priority must be ensuring they have the resources they need to safely and effectively do their jobs. From hurricanes to fires, in the most dire situations, the T-band spectrum provides critical communication between first responders. Even when cell phones, internet, and electricity cease to function, T-band is the last line of defense, and selling off this spectrum would be a disservice to our nation’s first responders and the millions of Americans they serve, and I applaud Chairman Pai for standing with these brave men and women. I urge Congress to, rather than wasting its time on a partisan, divisive impeachment, focus on the issues most important to the American people, including the immediate passage of the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act.

NYC Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said, “Since September 11th, we have systematically improved radio communications for our Firefighters and EMS personnel responding to fires and medical emergencies because those transmissions can so often mean the difference between life and death. Losing the T-Band spectrum would require billions of dollars to replace existing radios and infrastructure, devastate FDNY’s operations at thousands of emergencies each day, and unnecessarily endanger the safety of every single New Yorker.”

Suffolk County Fire District Officers Association President Jay Egan said, “The issue of the T-Band being left as is should be paramount to all and being it is directly a public safety issue, remain supported on a bipartisan basis. The fire service dedicates countless hours to protect the well being of all our residents and keeping the T-Band intact will only assist in this effort. Taxpayers everywhere are currently overburdened as it is and additional costs to meet the demands of the alternative to T-Band would be astronomical.”

Suffolk County Legislator and Mastic Fire Chief Rudy Sunderman said, As a County Legislator, as well as a Fire Chief, I fully support the repeal of the bipartisan T-Band bill as proposed by Congressman Lee Zeldin and his colleagues. Finding new radio channels will be time consuming with a hefty bill for radio programming for each Fire District on Long Island. Repealing the mandated sale of the T-Band spectrum will be a huge cost savings not only to the fire districts but to the taxpayer as well.”