Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) took aim at broadcasters from the Senate floor Tuesday over the issue of Katrina Communications failures, saying they should be forced to give their analog spectrum back by the end of next year.
McCain had been in Italy during the break, but it was only a matter of time after he returned before he weighed in given 1) the first responder communications complaints during the storm and 2) McCain's long-standing criticism of the pace of transitioning to DTV and reclaiming analog spectrum for those responders.
"Let’s remember that Congress provided additional spectrum for first responders in the Telecommunications Act of 1996," said McCain. "So, after spending millions of dollars in funding and additional spectrum for our nation’s first responders why aren’t we better off than we were on 9/11 when it comes to interoperable communications? Because the spectrum Congress provided to first responders in 1996 is being held hostage by television broadcasters even though broadcasters have been given new spectrum."
Former Commerce Committee Chairman McCain argued for action on the SAVE Lives Act, a bill he introduced with Senator Joe Lieberman that would return analog spectrum by Jan. 1, 2009, But he said that given the hurricane problems, he wanted to amend that to Jan. 1, 2007.
More likely is action on a Senate DTV transition bill. Sen. Ted Stevens, current Commerce Committee Chairman, is preparing to hold hearing on legislatoin expected to set a January (or June) 2009 deadline for the return of analog spectrum.