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Recon Bill With DTV Deadline Squeaks Through Full House

The House budget reconciliation bill containing the analog shutoff date was passed in the wee hours of Friday morning by two votes. The "Deficit Reduction Act of 2005" was approved 217-215, with all voting Democrats and 14 Republicans opposing it.

The bill includes all of the provisions of the DTV legislation passed late last month by the House Commerce Committee, including shutting down analog broadcast TV transmissions by Jan. 1, 2009 and funding a digital-to-analog converter box subsidy program at $990 million.

The Senate earlier this month passed its budget reconciliation bill, which also included DTV provisions for an April 7, 2009 shutoff date and a $3 billion subsidy program. It also allocates $200 million to digitize LPTV stations and translators; $1 billion for state and local communications interoperability; $250 million for a national alert and tsunami warning system; $250 million for enhanced 911; $200 million for hurricane relief; and $75 million for essential air service.

The House DTV legislation has more details: The D2A subsidy program would provide for two $40 coupons to qualifying households. The D2A converter box is defined down to power consumption. It requires set makers to put warning labels on analog TVs and broadcasters to run public service announcements. It moves up the digital tuner mandate deadline and allows cable operators to convert digital signals to analog at headends.

Other allocations in the House bill include $300 million for LPTVs and translators; $500 million for emergency comms; and $30 million for New York broadcasters. It also orders the FCC issue a Report and Order on unlicensed devices (ET Docket No. 04-186) within a year of the bill's passage; and to provide progress reports on TV channel assignments, which will be frozen between July 31, 2007 and Jan. 1, 2009.

Both bills proceed to a House-Senate conference committee, where differences will be worked out for a final vote.