Speaking on the Senate floor Sept. 13, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told colleagues that Congress must call in its “loan” of spectrum and require television broadcasters to give up spectrum used for analog transmission by Jan. 1, 2007 — two years sooner than envisioned in legislation known as the SAVE Lives Act.
McCain made his call for a prompt return of the spectrum after being informed that first responders in Louisiana to Hurricane Katrina experienced communications problems similar to those the New York fire, police and Port Authority officers faced when responding to the collapse of the World Trade Center Sept. 11, 2001.
The senator called for a three-part solution to first responder wireless communications problems:
- Develop an interoperable communications plan and set equipment standards;
- Fund the purchase of interoperable communications equipment,
- Provide additional spectrum to first responders so they can communicate on the same radio frequencies.
“And let’s remember that Congress also provided additional spectrum for first responders in the Telecommunications Act of 1996,” he said. “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?”
Answering his rhetorical question, the senator said because that spectrum “is being held hostage by television broadcasters even though broadcasters have been given new spectrum.”
According to McCain, Congress provided new spectrum to broadcasters in 1996 to ease the transition to digital service in exchange for a promise to return spectrum used for analog transmission by Dec. 31, 2006, so that it would be “available to first responders for interoperable communications.”
Concluding his floor speech, McCain quoted 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean from an appearance on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “What’s frustrating is it’s the same thing over again,” McCain quoted Kean as saying, continuing: “I mean, how many people have to lose their lives? It’s lack of communication, our first responders not being able to talk to each other.... Basically it’s many of the things that, frankly, if some of our recommendations had been passed by the United States Congress … could have been avoided.”
To read the speech in its entirety, visit http://mccain.senate.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=NewsCenter.ViewPressRelease&Content_id=1607.