Congress is now considering compromise legislation to push the digital transition back to June 12. The new bill, introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., revises the DTV Delay Act introduced last week.
The amended DTV Delay Act will retain the extension of the digital transition date to June 12. The new bill extends the FCC’s auction authority to pay for the costs of the delay, reaffirms a broadcaster’s right to make the transition before June 12, permits the FCC to award vacant spectrum space to public safety officials, and extends the converter box coupon program.
Surveys show that there are millions of consumers remaining who might have wanted coupons but can no longer get them because the coupon program ran out of money.
Estimates vary on the exact number, but all agree that millions of consumers are completely unprepared for the transition, a situation that Michael Copps, yesterday designated the acting FCC chairman, has been warning about for more than a year.
With the digital transition now set to occur in three weeks, there is little time to spare. The Senate is set to vote next week on the compromise bill introduced by Rockefeller, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
“The way I see it, right now we have a choice,” said Rockefeller. “We can do the DTV transition right or we can do it wrong. Doing it right would mean that as many as 21 million households across this country do not lose access to news, information and emergency alerts. Doing it right would mean that every consumer who relies on over the-air television is aware of the steps they need to take to ensure continued reception and receive the assistance they need to prepare for the transition in their home. And doing it right means that no one across this land wakes up on Feb. 18 to find that their television set has gone dark.
“But the shameful truth is that we are not poised to do this transition right,” Rockefeller continued. “We are only weeks away from doing it dreadfully wrong – and leaving consumers with the consequences.”
He accused the Bush Administration of gross mismanagement of the digital television transition.
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