A former Homeland Security official is advocating that Congress should direct television broadcasters to return their analog spectrum by early 2008 in order to improve emergency communications.
The call, from Asa Hutchinson, a former undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security, joined other voices — including Sen. John McCain, (R-AZ) — in calling for an expedited deadline for the turnoff of analog television.
Hutchinson supports the acceleration of freeing parts of the wireless radio spectrum previously allocated for public safety use but not yet available. Moving broadcasters out, moving public safety in, and auctioning the remainder will be highly complex, but could begin earlier than now scheduled, Hutchinson said, referring to a proposed 2009 DTV transition deadline.
He said Congress can and should use the spectrum auctions to fund interoperability of emergency communications. The DTV transition plans anticipate auctioning the rest of the 700MHz band to licensed wireless service providers of both voice and broadband applications.
For technical reasons, Hutchinson said, this section of 700MHz spectrum is unusually valuable. An auction could raise billions, funding both public safety interoperability and the television set-top converter boxes necessary for older TV sets to receive DTV signals after broadcasters vacate the analog spectrum.