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‘T-Band’ Radio Frequency May Soon Hit The Auction Block « CBS New York


BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Taxpayers could soon be hit with a hefty cost to rebuild communications for first responders.

The radio frequency that protects 90 million people daily could be headed for the public auction block, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday.

Communicating in an emergency is critical when saving lives, but first responders have been alarmed by a looming change. The federal government may soon sell off their coveted radio frequency to the highest bidder.

“This doesn’t only affect Long Island. It’s New York and 11 metropolitan areas. It’s not broke; don’t fix,” said Barbara Bender of Babylon Central Fire Alarm.

At issue is what’s called “T-Band,” the radio spectrum. First responders use it to talk with one another. It penetrates concrete and steel, and works during severe storms and when power goes out.

An NYPD officer talks on his radio while people take part in a protest against then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, on March 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

The network was upgraded after 9/11 when different agencies couldn’t communicate with each other. Congress assumed that by now there would be a better network in its place and ordered the T-Band frequency sold at auction by 2021.

But a better network is not in place.

“The FCC is saying to all our first responders: ‘Move out of your old house; move into a new one.’ But the new one isn’t built,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said.

Schumer is introducing bipartisan legislation to keep T-Band intact.

“While the T-Band is worth a lot of money in the private sector, it’s priceless to the men and women who hold this,” Schumer said.

FLASHBACK: 10 Years After 9/11, First Responders’ Radios Still Not Connected, Report Finds

Fire departments say there is no equal frequency available, and if there were it would cost each municipality hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild towers and replace pagers and radios.

“This is all going to fall on the taxpayers,” said Myles Quinn of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs. “There is no money to help us replace the system. There is no frequency we can move to. We are stuck.”

If nothing changes, the T-Band could be on the auction block to communication companies as soon as next year, Gusoff reported.

The FCC did not respond to requests for comment. The spectrum auctions are intended to give everyone an equal shot and promote fair competition in the telecommunications industry.

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