The U.S. Senate yesterday voted overwhelmingly to pass a bill addressing many concerns raised by the 9/11 Commission, including an amendment forged last week that is designed to ensure that public-safety entities gain access to 24 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band on Jan. 1, 2008.

Published reports indicated the Senate approved the National Intelligence Reform Act by a 96-2 margin. Senate Commerce Committee spokesman David Wonnenberg confirmed that the 700 MHz amendment offered last week by Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) was included in the measure, which has not yet been addressed by the House of Representatives.

Under the amendment, broadcasters would be required to clear spectrum currently used for analog TV channels 63, 64, 68 and 69 by Jan. 1, 2008, when public-safety entities could use the airwaves if they make a “bonafide request” for the airwaves.

Public-safety officials hailed the amendment--supported by the influential National Association of Broadcasters—as a significant policy change, because it would provide public-safety groups with a certain date for receiving the much-wanted spectrum if it becomes law. Current law and some other legislative efforts would have left the matter in limbo.

“Pretty much, it says public safety will get the spectrum in 2008,” Yucel Ors, spokesman for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officers (APCO), said last week. “It’s a victory for public safety.”

While helpful to public safety, the Senate amendment would not provide any clarity for commercial wireless providers that are anxious to use the valuable airwaves for advanced wireless services.