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Homeland Security Grabs DTV Dollars, Says Democrat

House Energy & Commerce Committee member Bart Stupak says the National Telecommunications & Information Administration has essentially turned over the $1 billion in interoperablity communications grants from the DTV transition bill to the Department of Homeland Security to offset $1 billion in budget cuts there.

"It appears that NTIA, the agency that Congress thought was best equipped to handle public safety communications interoperability and to manage the public safety spectrum, is abdicating its responsibility to the Department of Homeland Security," said Michigan Democrat Stupak in a statement Thursday, "which, as we saw during Hurricane Katrina, has a poor track record."

"Congress allocated $1 billion to be used to improve existing interoperability funding by focusing on new technologies and new capabilities," ehs said, "I do not see how giving this funding to the Department of Homeland Security to offset the Administration's proposed $1 billion cuts to public safety grants will achieve Congress' goal of new funding and a new approach for communications interoperability."

Stupak was referring to memorandum of understanding between HTIA and DHS () in which NTIA effectively outsources adminstration fo the $1 billion, which is suposed to "assist public safety agencies in the acquisition of, deployment of, or training for the use of interoperable communications systems that can utilize reallocated public safety spectrum in the 700 MHz band for radio communication."

The money is coming from proceeds of the auction of broadcasters analog spectrum, which is being reclaimed for other uses, including emergency communications, after the switch to digital.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.