President Barack Obama and the Democrats holding onto their majority in the Senate virtually assures that the federal legislation that reallocated the 700 MHz D Block to public safety and authorized $7 billion to start building a nationwide broadband network for first responders won't be overturned.
We had been hearing concerns within the public-safety sector in the weeks leading up to the election about such a possibility. I didn't share those concerns, really. As we have written from the very beginning, this network makes too much sense and is too sorely needed for it not to be built. But you never know in politics — strange things, very strange things, often happen, and they often happen unexpectedly.
Despite the bipartisan support that this legislation had, it would not have been implausible that, if Republicans won both the Senate and the White House, while holding their majority in the House, federal lawmakers would have done a U-turn, given the crushing deficit that the country still is dealing with. Paradoxically, while first responders desperately need the communications capabilities that only broadband can provide, the network itself may have been seen as an expensive luxury by a Republican Congress and White House driven to lower taxes, drive down the deficit and move toward the notion of smaller government.
An added benefit to the status quo described above is that the makeup of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration — the government entity working with the FirstNet board to build the network — has a chance to remain largely unchanged. That's good, because any major upheaval would have slowed considerably the pace of this project. And there's no time to waste, not only because this network is needed, but also because it is going to take years — perhaps decades — to bring it to fruition.
Though many challenges await NTIA/FirstNet and the public-safety sector as work begins on building out this vital network, the prospect of the network going away isn't one of them, especially given that President Obama supports it. Yesterday was a good day for public safety.