Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) today introduced legislation that would require television broadcasters to clear valuable 700 MHz spectrum for public-safety entities and other users by Jan. 1, 2009.

Dubbed the “Spectrum Availability for Emergency-Response and Law-Enforcement to Improve Vital Emergency Services (Save Lives) Act of 2005,” the bill is the first legislation introduced that addresses the digital television transition. Previously, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduced draft legislation that was debated by the House Commerce Committee, but that proposal has not become a bill yet.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who succeeded McCain as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, reportedly will introduce his digital TV legislation soon. The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to debate the Stevens and McCain/Lieberman bills on June 29, according to reports.

The McCain/Lieberman bill received statements of support from the Consumer Electronics Association, the Progress & Freedom Foundation and a public-safety coalition consisting of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCC), the Major County Sheriffs' Association (MCSA), the National Association of Counties (NACo), the National League of Cities (NLC), and the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA).

The public-safety coalition applauded the bill.

"This important legislation is critical to meet the requirements of our nation's first responders," the coalition said in a press release. "We urge Congress to move quickly and adopt this important legislation."