DTV Primer

Chris Llana, Editor


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9/29 Senate Hearing Give Clues

October 1, 2005

The September 29 Senate Commerce Committee hearing on interoperability of emergency responders' radios provided some hints about what has been going on behind the scenes.

The interoperability problem has been around for a long, long time. A group to establish standards was created fifteen years ago but has succeeded in producing results in just one category out of eight. The recent catastrophies, both natural and man-made, are providing impetus for everyone to get this problem solved.

Adding new radio spectrum is just one part of the problem, but one that has an immediate solution--that is, an end to analog TV broadcasts which will free up the sprectrum promised to public safety agencies years ago.

Senator Stevens (chairman of the Commerce Committee), noted at the hearing that the Congressional Budget Office predicted that the revenue obtained from the auction of spectrum released from an analog TV shutdown would be considerably higher if the auction was delayed until 2009. Part of those funds would be used for new radio equipment for public safety agencies.

On the other hand, some of the freed-up spectrum would given to the same agencies to be added to their radios to faciliate interoperability with other agencies' radios. More than one senator complained that if this had been done years ago, many lives could have been saved--with the implication being that the longer we wait to get the spectrum back from TV broadcasters, the more likely there will be another disaster in which yet more people will die because fire and police and federal agencies cannot talk to each other.

Senator Stevens said there was enormous demand to end the DTV transition no later than 2007, and hopefully in 2006. So it looks now like the pendulum has swung the other way, toward a DTV transition sooner than end-2008, rather than later.

Don't be surprised if it ends up being end-2007, plus or minus six months. Or something else.

Stevens said they would try to have hearings on the DTV bill next week (October 3 - 7) if there was time for it in the schedule. We anxiously await.