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D Block Auction a must, says former FEMA Director

James Lee Witt is former director of FEMA
Former FEMA director James Lee Witt emphasized on the D-Block auction for better first responders communication

The National Broadband Plan provides the framework for a truly nationwide, interoperable broadband network for public safety, and it all depends on an auction of the D Block.

During a keynote at the National Press Club, former FEMA Director and CEO of Witt Associates James Lee Witt joined a broad-based group of stakeholders calling for a public auction of valuable 700 MHz spectrum as the most efficient and effective way to ensure construction of a nationwide, interoperable broadband network for our nation's first responders.

"With the continuing threat of terrorism, we are at an important crossroads today," said Witt. "For the first time, we have a comprehensive plan, and a way to fund it. It has been almost ten years since 9/11, and our nation's first responders – our heroes still face considerable obstacles communicating with one another. Public safety deserves better and so does the American public. We have no time to waste."

Witt was joined by a panel of experts from industry, public safety and public interest spectrum groups including Dennis Roberson, former CTO of Motorola; John Kneuer, former Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at NTIA; Joe Hanna, former President of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International (APCO); Harold Feld, Legal Director of Public Knowledge; and Steven Berry, President and CEO of the Rural Cellular Association (RCA).

The event was sponsored by Connect Public Safety Now, a broad-based coalition of wireless broadband providers, rural communications groups, public interest organizations and think tanks, advocating for a public auction of the D Block as articulated in the FCC's National Broadband Plan. Two leading organizations representing first responders, the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Fire Fighters, have also expressed public support for an auction of the D Block.

The National Broadband Plan provides the framework for a truly nationwide, interoperable broadband network for public safety, and it depends upon an auction of the D Block, both as a way of furnishing a down payment on the build out of the Upper 700 MHz public safety network and as a platform for a public-private partnership to support public safety during emergencies.

"Every day that this debate lingers, uncertainty is perpetuated. Uncertainty begets delay," urged Joe Hanna, former President of APCO. "In the public safety world, we have long been told that justice delayed is justice denied. Broadband services that are delayed to our first responders are services denied."

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