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Fossella Provision to Provide $1 Billion to Enhance PC Comm

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 3:04 pm    Post subject: Fossella Provision to Provide $1 Billion to Enhance PC Comm
From Mon Dec 19, 2005 3:00 am to Wed Dec 21, 2005 2:59 am (included)
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For Immediate Release Contact: Craig Donner
December 19, 2005 (718) 356-5039; Cell (917) 301-8792

Rep. Fossella Provision to Provide $1 Billion to Enhance Public Safety Communications Passes House

Fossella Also Secures $30 Million to Offset Costs for NYers of Transition to Digital TV

[Washington, DC] - Congressman Vito Fossella (R-NY13) wrapped up the legislative year early this morning with two major victories - passage of a $1 billion grant program to improve first responder communications and $30 million for New York City to ensure all New Yorkers have access to digital television once broadcasters stop using analog signals. Both measures were contained in the Deficit Reduction Act.

Helping to implement a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, Fossella's provision will establish a $1 billion dedicated federal grant program for first responders to build an interoperable communications system.

Fossella, who authored the provision with Chairman Upton and Reps. Engel and Towns, worked successfully to increase funding for the measure to $1 billion from $500 million, the amount originally contained in Fossella's amendment that passed a House Subcommittee in October.

"Our nation tragically learned on September 11th that first responders must have compatible communication systems that allow them to coordinate their actions at an emergency," Fossella said. "When our first responders are unable to communicate with one another, we place their lives at risk as well as the lives of innocent people who rely on them for safety. This provision will help our first responders upgrade and enhance their communication systems so they can do their jobs safely and more efficiently. This is a smart investment in the men and women who risk their lives so that our families are safe and secure."

The provision calls for $1 billion to be set aside from the auction of 60 MHz of additional spectrum in the 700 MHz band when broadcasters move to DTV. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the FCC auction could generate revenues in excess of $10 billion.

In 1997, Congress dedicated 24 MHz of spectrum for public safety in the 700 MHz band when broadcasters transition to digital television and vacate the frequencies they currently use to transmit analog signals. The hard date for transition to DTV is February 17, 2009.

The amendment also requires the federal government to fund 80% of approved grant requests with states and localities picking up the remaining 20%.

The grant programs will be administered by the Department of Commerce, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security.

The amendment is supported by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO International), International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association of Fire Chiefs, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Sheriff's Association and the National League of Cities.

The amendment builds on Fossella's work last year in passing an amendment as part of the 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act (H.R. 10) that authorized $150 million for multi-year grants to guarantee state and local governments the money needed to plan and execute a comprehensive interoperability system. Under the current system, states and localities receive funds on a year-to-year basis, but have no guarantee of receiving funding to implement or finalize the new system.

Fossella also authored legislation this year, The Public Safety Interoperability Implementation Act (H.R. 1323), which would establish a $500 million Public Safety Communications Trust Fund in the U.S. Treasury to create a fully interoperable communications system for the nation's first responders. The legislation was drafted in coordination with the City of New York and other public safety organizations. It was introduced jointly by Fossella and Congressman Bart Stupak (MI-1).

$30 Million for DTV Transition

Fossella's provision will provide $30 million to ensure all New Yorkers have access to digital television once broadcasters stop using analog signals. Fossella passed similar legislative language in October in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The provision, which was coauthored by Reps. Towns and Engel, will provide $30 million to the Metropolitan Television Alliance to build a system of distributed transmission and translators to plug coverage gaps when television broadcasts transition from analog to digital. The hard date for transition to DTV is February 17, 2009.

Prior to September 11th, analog and digital broadcasting facilities were located atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center. After the attack, antennas were added to the Empire State Building as a temporary solution, but power limitations and unfavorable antenna position would leave gaps in digital service affecting hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Current plans call for antennas to be placed atop the Freedom Tower when construction is completed, which is expected to be after 2009.

"This funding will ensure a seamless transition from analog to digital television for New Yorkers," Fossella said. "It will plug the gaps in service and allow all New Yorkers to have access to broadcast digital television on the very first day it is available. The destruction of the World Trade Center jeopardized New York's ability to meet the mandate for broadcasting in digital. Without this funding, televisions would go black for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. The funding solves this temporary problem without shutting the television off for viewers in New York."


Craig Donner
Press Secretary
Office of Rep. Vito Fossella (NY-13)
(718) 356-8400 main
(718) 356-5039 direct
(718) 356-1928 fax
(917) 301-8792 cell

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