Ever since the attacks exposed the inability of fire, police and rescue departments to talk to one another via radio in an emergency, public safety officials have pushed for the allocation of additional airwaves, also known as spectrum, for their dedicated use.
But Congress had mandated that the wireless spectrum at issue — a prime block of airwaves known as D Block — be auctioned off to a commercial wireless company, which would raise money that could then be used to help build a public safety network.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations had supported auctioning the spectrum, as had the Federal Communications Commission. Last June, the F.C.C. published a white paper saying that a better public safety communications network could be constructed at lower cost by using airwaves already dedicated to public safety, supplemented by the right to essentially take over commercial networks in an emergency.
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