Congress Seeks Answers On Early Analog Shutoffs

Congress is asking for information from acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps on which broadcasters will be able to switch to digital ahead of a delayed DTV transition date, should legislation pass to extend the analog shutoff deadline from February to June.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., ranking member of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, expressed their concern in a letter to the FCC chairman that the language in the pending DTV transition legislation will make it difficult for stations to transition prior to the new date.

The original date was scheduled for Feb. 17. The Senate passed legislation delaying the transition to June 12 and a similar measure was defeated shortly afterwards in the House. Congress is expected to vote on new transition legislation on Wednesday.

“Our understanding is that, because of interference concerns, most broadcast stations would not be allowed to transition under current FCC rules until around the time that all broadcast stations transition,” Barton and Stearns said. “Consequently, most of the spectrum promised to first responders would also be unavailable until the delayed transition date.”

The congressmen want to know about how many stations would be allowed to switch before a June transition date. They requested a response before the legislation hits the floor for the expected Wednesday vote.