At a March 6 Gulf Coast meeting of the FCC's independent committee investigating the impact of Katrina on communications, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin put in a plug for "smart radios."
One of Martin's suggestions for improving communications "enabling first responders to communicate seamlessly during a disaster," is to develop new technologies like "smart radios," he said, which "can be used to re-establish communication as quickly as possible."
Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell was a big backer of the radios, or at least the concept of more efficient spectrum use, which the devices promise by intuitively seeking out available frequencies to use. The FCC is currently considering a proposal--launched under Powell--to allow such smart radios and other devices to operate in the unused spectrum, so-called "white spaces," between broadcast channels. The Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday was being asked by a Microsoft executive to allow the use of unlicensed devices.
The Senate Commerce Committee is currently considering two bills that would permit those devices to use broadcast spectrum. Broadcasters are concerned about possible interference from the devices. The bills address those concerns, but have not allayed them.