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King County Executive News

King County Executive News
Feb. 22, 2012

County applauds Inslee and Cantwell for preventing auction of radio spectrum used by local public safety systems

Key provision in federal payroll tax deal will protect narrowband radio spectrum for use by King County Metro Transit

King County Executive Dow Constantine and members of the Metropolitan King County Council today thanked Congressman Jay Inslee and Senator Maria Cantwell for their work to amend federal payroll tax legislation and protect the 700 MHz narrowband radio spectrum used by public safety systems in King County.

"Thanks to the leadership of Congressman Inslee and Senator Cantwell, the 'other Washington' will not be allowed to auction off the radio waves we use to protect the public here in King County," said Executive Constantine, who thanked the state's Congressional delegation for its support on this fast-moving issue.

"Rapid and uninterrupted communications play a critical role for a number of County services," said Council Chair Larry Gossett, who met with Congressman Inslee on this issue in January. "Congressman Inslee heard from the Council about the need to protect the investment the County has made for a 'band' used by a variety of agencies in the region."

"In order to better serve our citizens, King County needs certainty in its public safety communications," said Councilmember Jane Hague, who brought up the issue in the County's meeting with Senator Cantwell. "Thankfully, this new provision protects the county's considerable investment in emergency communications."

This provision requires the return of the "T-band" spectrum to the FCC for auction instead of the 700 MHz "narrowband" spectrum, which is currently used by public safety communications systems. In King County, these systems provide vital support for Metro Transit police and transit operations.

Rep. Inslee led a letter with U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen and Adam Smith to the conference committee leadership urging them to consider the impact of removing the 700 MHz spectrum at a time when many local governments have invested in communications systems dependent on that spectrum availability. Senator Cantwell led the same effort in the Senate, bringing the same concerns to the attention of House and Senate conferees.

In late January, Executive Constantine and members of the County Council met in Washington, DC, with Rep. Inslee, Sen. Cantwell, and others in the state's Congressional delegation. Among the top issues they discussed was the protection of this critical portion of radio spectrum, for which King County currently has a license for use from the FCC.