Lack of people opting into emergency alerts poses challenges for natural disaster scenarios

December 2, 2020 – Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel of the Federal Communications Commission – and who appears to be considered to be elevated to the position of chairman of the agency under the president-elect Joe Biden — advocated for the T-band auction to be stopped by Congress and for the status of 911 answering machines to be changed.

Speaking at an Association of Public Safety Communications Officials conference on Tuesday, Rosenworcel reiterated that there has long been bipartisan support for not having a T-band auction.

Earlier this year, the current chairman of the commission, Ajit Paireleased a regulatory proposal regarding the T-band auction mandate in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, also known as the Spectrum Act.

According to Rosenworcel, when the law was first created, it was assumed that first responders would not need these airwaves by 2021. However, as of this month, a dozen major metropolitan areas still use, including major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Houston, Dallas and others.

Unless the law is changed, the FCC will be required by law to auction off these waves in the 470-512 megahertz band, whether it likes it or not.

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Commissioner Rosenworcel called on Congress to fix the law so the agency wouldn’t have to hold the T-band auction in a few months.

If that doesn’t work, she said the FCC should work with Congress and first responders to make sure the auction doesn’t threaten their continued use of those airwaves.

She also offered several tools to make this work, such as setting reserve prices, reviewing auction eligibility, and upfront payments.

Funding for 911 upgrades

Rosenworcel was optimistic about funding 911 upgrades. For infrastructure, there was “no better expense than improving public safety.” She predicted that if the United States developed a national program to boost and improve 911 infrastructure, it would touch every state and every community.

She cited current legislation like NG-911, the Moving Forward America Act, and the Lift America Act as reasons why she thinks 911 infrastructure could be upgraded for “everyone everywhere.”

“We are on the cusp of a new generation of public safety,” Rosenworcel said. “Next Generation 911 can dramatically improve public safety for all of us who call that number.”