The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) announced today that Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) will receive the 2012 Legislator of the Year award for his leadership in introducing and passing legislation to create the first ever nationwide broadband communications network to connect public safety officials and first responders during emergencies.
Rockefeller's public safety spectrum bill, S. 911, included in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, was enacted earlier this year and had been a top legislative priority for the NVFC. It will prevent the kind of communications failures that occurred during rescue efforts at Ground Zero on 9/11 and at the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia in 2010.
"I am extremely pleased to announce Senator Rockefeller as the 2012 NVFC Legislator of the Year," said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. "This award is richly-deserved for his hard work on behalf of the volunteer fire and emergency services in West Virginia and throughout the nation. Passage of this legislation will revolutionize public safety communications capabilities, including in rural areas that currently lack affordable access to broadband service."
"Thank you to the National Volunteer Fire Council for this award and for its work for our first responders," said Senator Rockefeller. "This legislation is about protecting the safety of every American, and now because of it, our firefighters, police officers, and EMS workers will have the tools they need to do their jobs. These heroes play an essential role in making sure that every American is safe -- whether during a national security threat, mine accident, or natural disaster -- and soon they will be able to connect to each other seamlessly during emergencies. This legislation has been one of my top priorities, and a more than ten-year long effort. I'm thrilled that it's finally law."
Rockefeller's public safety legislation allocates 10 MHz of radio spectrum in the 700 MHz band (commonly referred to as the "D-Block") to public safety for the purpose of building a nationwide broadband communications network. It won't cost taxpayers a penny and provides funding that will be raised through the auction of additional radio spectrum currently held by the federal government to pay for construction of the new public safety network.
"Senator Rockefeller led the charge on the public safety legislation and I'm very happy that he is being recognized for his efforts," said the NVFC's West Virginia Director, Tom Miller, who participated in a roundtable discussion on public safety communications that Senator Rockefeller hosted in Charleston, WV, in September 2010. "On behalf of the West Virginia State Firemen's Association I'd like to thank Senator Rockefeller for his support and congratulate him on receiving this award."
The NVFC will formally present Senator Rockefeller with the 2012 Legislator of the Year award in conjunction with the annual spring board meeting, which is being held in Alexandria, Virginia, on April 27-29.