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Senate Passes DTV Advisory

The Senate Wednesday passed congressional recommendations on speeding the switch to DTV as part of an overhaul of the U.S. intelligence network.

The DTV provision is minor component of the massive bill and is non-binding. The legislation passed by an overwhelming 89-2 vote.

The House passed the bill late Tuesday 336-75. The "sense of the Congress" is intended to give the FCC, broadcasters and the telecom industry an idea of what direction Congress wants to take the DTV transition. The resolution calls for TV stations to begin all-digital transmissions and return their old analog channels to the government "as early as" Dec. 31, 2006, and turn a portion of the old channels over to local fire, police and other public-safety departments.
The intelligence overhaul is being driven by glaring problems in the country’s intelligence agencies that were exposed by the 2001 terrorist attacks. The DTV measure is included in the bill because New York City officials had a hard time communicating during terrorist attacks and Congress could alleviate their continuing communications problems by handing them some TV spectrum.

The open ended wording of the resolution is a bit of a victory for broadcasters who don’t want to be saddled with the obligation, even a recommended one, to give up their old channels so soon. Congress is expected to debate an actual DTV deadline early next year.