House Passes Don’t Break Up The T-Band Act

The House of Representatives passed a bill repealing the requirement that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to do away with the 470-512 MHz band of spectrum, also known as the T-Band, on Wednesday. The proposed legislation, entitled “Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act of 2020,” will now move one step closer to enactment as the Senate considers whether to approve.

The T-Band spectrum “is a frequency range currently utilized by public-safety entities in certain urban areas,” according to the Congressional summary. The instant bill was introduced by Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) on Jan. 10, 2019, and proposes to repeal a provision of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 that compelled the FCC to reallocate and auction off the T-Band spectrum.

Rep. Engel released a statement following the bill’s passage in the House, stating that enactment would ensure that first-responders are able to use the T-Band spectrum to communicate effectively and keep communities safe. According to Engel’s statement, “[e]mergency personnel in major metropolitan areas across the United States use the T-band spectrum for emergency public safety communication. It allows first responders to communicate even when cell towers, electricity or the internet are down, and allows communication deep underground in tunnels or inside concrete buildings.”

He noted that to date, local, state, and federal T-Band spectrum investments have totaled millions of dollars. Additionally, he remarked, the cost of relocating it to other spectrums would be “between $5 and $6 billion, and for many T-Band users, alternative bands of spectrum are limited or ‘nonexistent,’” citing a United States Government Accountability Office study.

Engel noted that the timing of the bill is critical, pointing to the FCC’s obligation to reallocate and auction off the T-band spectrum by 2021. In the statement, Engel commented, “[m]y hope is that the Senate will promptly pass this legislation and send it to the President’s desk for his signature.”