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9/11 Panel Doles Out Failing Grade on 'Spectrum Delay'

Getting letter grades like on a school report card, the federal government received several 'F's and other poor grades this week from a bipartisan group that had comprised the former Sept. 11 Commission, which was originally charged with investigating the government's response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

The former commission's final report finds that both the Bush administration and Congress have balked at enacting some vital reforms that could save lives and perhaps prevent another 9/11-like terrorist attack inside the United States. One of the issues the new "report card" cites is the available of analog spectrum, or the lack, thereof, that could prove vital during national or local emergencies.

This spectrum, which local broadcasters have been reluctant to turn over for federal auction too quickly during the current digital transition--with the formal approval of Congress and the FCC--was an issue earlier cited by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as one of the first-responder problems that may have saved lives on Sept. 11 (even though Year 2001 was years earlier than Congress itself had originally earmarked for a spectrum turnover).

The panel, which re-invented itself in the past year as a non-profit group, included in its report card 5 F's, 12 D's and two I's ("incompletes") in categories that include improving first responder communications, according to published reports. Its findings indicate that once Congress agrees on a final cut-off date in a conference committee, the grade could improve to perhaps a C. (That still would not get spectrum-givers into a good college.)