Whether DTV deadline moves or not, NCTA ready

Fri, 01/16/2009 - 7:20am
Mike Robuck

While members of Congress debate the merits of whether to push back the transition to all-digital signals from Feb. 17 to this summer, National Cable & Telecommunications Association President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow said his organization is prepared for either scenario.

In a letter dated today to Tom Wheeler, transition agency group leader for the presidential transition team, McSlarrow said the cable industry is ready to provide its support.

“This is a unique, and fairly massive and complex operation,” McSlarrow wrote in his letter. “That is why, in my note to you last week, I expressed concern that if the date of the transition were to be moved, it would be important to know that as soon as possible.

“However, I am pleased to report that, working with our partners and vendors over the last week, we have been able to position this effort so we will be ready to go if the current transition date of Feb. 17 stays in place; but have engineered enough flexibility into the plan so if the transition date is extended, we will be able to adjust accordingly.”

McSlarrow said the NCTA has a plan in place to help coordinate a DTV transition call center that will be ready by the Feb. 17 deadline, whether the transition is moved or not.

“ . . . We crafted an integrated plan that contemplates the use of up to 7,000 live operators during a period leading up to, and for several weeks after, the digital transition on Feb. 17, 2009,” McSlarrow’s letter said. “This plan requires expenditures of approximately $20 million of out-of-pocket costs, most of it expended by the cable industry, and includes contracting third-party capacity, integrating and purchasing trunk-line capacity, the hiring of English- and Spanish-speaking live agents, training and the development of scripts.”

The NCTA and the cable industry have spent millions of dollars educating consumers on the digital transition.

Last week, President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team urged Congress to postpone the Feb. 17 switch from analog to digital television broadcasting (story here). One of the concerns is that the Commerce Department has run out of money for the coupons that subsidize digital TV converter boxes for consumers (story here).

Yesterday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said he would sponsor legislation that would push back the transition to June 12.

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