Barton on DTV: bin Laden Isn’t Waiting

Osama bin Laden has entered the debate in Congress on delaying the DTV transition.

The top Republican on the House Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who has consistently said that fears of viewer disenfranchisement are overstated, invoked the Al-Qaeda leader and said that public-safety users would be negatively impacted by moving the transition deadline to June 12.

“Our public safety sector has been pleading since 1996 for access to the broadcast spectrum that would be freed up by the DTV transition, and which they need desperately for emergencies like 9/11,” wrote Barton and Cliff Stearns of Florida, the top Republican on the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, in a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Instead they’ve become like the fictional refugees who got as far as Casablanca in the ’40s, only to ‘wait, and wait, and wait.’ Osama bin Laden isn’t fictional, and he isn’t waiting. That should be reason enough to go full speed ahead with the DTV transition. Instead we’re suspending the rules in order to wait, and wait, and wait?”

Pelosi planned to bring the delay bill, passed Monday by the Senate, directly to the House floor without a hearing in the Commerce Committee.

“In addition to creating confusion among millions of consumers, suspending the normal rules in order to pass this bill would complete the mockery of our institution that this process has become,” Stearns and Barton wrote.

They noted that a separate bill they have introduced would fix the funding shortfall in the coupon program and help many viewers keep their TVs on, without changing the Feb. 17 deadline.