Commerce OKs Pan-Media Alert

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Helped by concerns over Hurricane Katrina communications, the Senate Commerce Committee passed the WARN Act (Warning, Alert and Reponse Network), which will create an emergency warning system that includes a variety of new media, from BlackBerrys and cell phones to satellite, cable and broadcast elements.

It will be funded by $250 million from the auction of broadcasters' analog spectrum after the switch to digital, including $50 million for a tsunami warning system.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, for one, said during congressional hearings on Katrina response last month that such a system that encorporated satellite, wireless and other technologies was necessary, a sentiment that seemed universally shared by the legislators.