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Inslee advances digital TV provisions

Emergency responders and wireless Internet users may get a little more elbow room in the broadcast spectrum.

A provision sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-1st District) would free up wasted portions of the television spectrum as the nation transitions to a digitally-based TV signal system.

“Public safety and consumer choice prevailed,” Inslee said. “Freeing up this spectrum will help spur technological innovation and economic growth.”

Inslee’s measure coattails a bill approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday that would make Dec. 31, 2008 the cutoff date for switching TV sets from analog to digital signals.

“Spectrum” refers to the range of frequencies at which electromagnetic waves can travel.

Inslee’s provision directs the Federal Communications Commission to allow public safety organizations and wireless service providers to use unlicensed portions of prime spectrum.

This includes channels 2 through 51 presently reserved for television broadcasting.

If reassigned, emergency responders could use the vacant spectrum to improve communication between jurisdictions and agencies. Traditional and unlicensed wireless broadband networks could increase the range of services available to consumers and help create inexpensive high-speed Internet networks serving schools and rural areas, the congressman said.

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