Washington (DC) - In a markup session of the Senate Commerce Committee this afternoon, where the current version of the US digital television transition bill is being debated, an amendment by Sen. John McCain to move the date of transition up from the currently supported 7 April 2009, to 7 April 2007, has been defeated. The Committee vote has not yet been publicly recorded.
The bill's language is so fresh, it has not yet been reported to the official Senate Web site, nor does it have a docket number. However, in debates this afternoon, it was revealed that as its language currently appears, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that as much as $10 billion dollars will be raised through the auction of reclaimed spectrum, formerly used by VHF broadcast television, toward use by "first responders" - public emergency services. The minimum requirement that the bill had to raise, according to committee chairman Sen. Ted Stevens (R - Alaska), was $4.8 billion.
In an effort to gain support for the bill, and reduce complaints that it focuses on raising funds to subsidize set-top boxes while national emergencies continue to take priority, the language has apparently been amended to enable representatives of first responders to borrow against the bill's auction proceeds, for the requisitioning and purchase of new communications equipment that utilizes the reclaimed spectrum. Senators acknowledged that representatives of public service agencies told them the process of making those purchases could itself consume three years or more.