Public safety gets a big 700 MHz victory
Congrats to public safety on a huge win on the 700 MHz front, resulting in a Senate amendment approved this week that greatly improves the chances that 24 MHz of valuable spectrum in the band actually will be available for use in 2008.
The victory I’m referencing is getting the support of the National Association of Broadcasters–one of the most influential lobbying forces inside the Beltway–on the matter. NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton yesterday called the 700 MHz amendment to Senate 9/11 Commission legislation “a reasonable compromise” while citing “a recognition on our part that there’s a need to accommodate public safety.” Winning the Senate vote certainly was nice for public safety, but this major policy shift was bigger, in my opinion.
First of all, it’s doubtful the amendment–effectively providing certainty that as of Jan. 1, 2008, public safety could use the 700 MHz frequencies (currently the conduit for transmitting analog TV channels 63, 64, 68 and 69)–would have passed without NAB’s blessing. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) proposed the amendment, and he typically has supported the broadcasters’ position in this debate.
Second, NAB support greatly enhances the ability for the 700 MHz amendment to be part of any law after passing through the House of Representatives and a likely conference committee.
Third, and most important, even if an amendment providing firm date on the availability of 700 MHz were passed, public safety officials could not feel comfortable about it without NAB support. After all, there’s a lot of time until 2008. If NAB was not on board with the amendment, trying to fight this lobby for the next three years would be risky, at best–hardly the ideal environment for an entity wanting to engineer a network utilizing the 700 MHz airwaves.
Thankfully, it appears NAB and public safety finally are on the same side on this critical matter. While key issues of debate regarding the 700 MHz airwaves remain, my bet is that this new alliance will be strong enough that a law will be passed ensuring public safety gets its 700 MHz spectrum in 2008.
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Correction: Last week in this space, I erroneously attributed the source of the “chicken in every pot” political motto to Franklin Roosevelt. Thanks to several readers for noting that this actually was Herbert Hoover’s rallying cry during his 1928 presidential campaign. I apologize for the error and regret any inconvenience it may have caused.