Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ) and House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-NY), today introduced the Help Emergency Responders Operate Emergency Systems (HEROES) Act.
In 2004, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) ensured more efficient use of the communications spectrum and greater spectrum access for First Responders. This federal mandate is known as the "Narrowband Mandate," which forces all First Responders to upgrade their communications equipment and spectrum licenses by January 1, 2013 to avoid the communications pitfalls in the aftermath of 9/11. This issue was highlighted by the "Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007," which included provisions to aid states and local governments in complying with the 2013 deadline. Unfortunately, the funding for the FCC mandate and elements of the 9/11 Commission Act has been drastically reduced because of budget cuts and in some cases these programs have been eliminated.
"This unfunded federal mandate will force already overburdened local taxpayers to finance these essential upgrades for our local First Responders," said Rothman. "More than 18,000 police departments, more than 26,000 fire departments, and millions of First Responders across the country are impacted by this mandate. Without adequate funding, many of these local First Responders will be left with radio and communications equipment that will be unable to operate during an emergency."
The HEROES Act will establish a $400 million DHS-administered Narrowbanding Compliance Assistance Program to assist first responders in meeting the January 1, 2013 narrowband mandate and use the sale of federally owned spectrum to pay for the competitive grant program. It will reallocate the D block to public safety and provide funding for the construction of a national interoperable public safety wireless broadband network.