Rockefeller introduces bill to delay DTV transition until mid-June

Despite urging from Bush Administration Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez last week not to postpone the Feb. 17 deadline for the DTV transition, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, filed a bill Jan. 15 to delay the analog shutoff until June 12.

“The outgoing Bush Administration has mismanaged this initiative and President-elect Obama has asked Congress to delay the date of the transition. Over 2 million Americans are waiting to receive a coupon to help them offset the cost of equipment that will help them manage the transition — millions more don’t have the proper information they need,” Rockefeller said.

The day before, Gutierrez wrote to Rockefeller and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, requesting both not to delay the DTV transition. In the letters, Gutierrez, whose agency is responsible for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration that is managing distribution of converter box coupons, recounted the progress made in publicizing the DTV transition and distributing the coupons. Gutierrez pointed to the NTIA’s running out of the $1.34 billion available for coupons during the first week of January as evidence of the success of efforts to educate the public about the transition.

However, a statement on Rockefeller’s official Web site says the NTIA “has mismanaged the coupon program.” Pointing to the 2 million people on coupon waiting lists, the statement said that even with more money allocated for coupons, “it may be impossible to fill the backlog of coupon orders before Feb. 17.”

A delay will give Congress and the Obama Administration “time to pursue funding solutions and improve the program to ensure consumers receive the help they need,” the statement said.

Other reasons to delay the transition include reducing public safety risks, giving federal agencies more time to prepare and providing a chance for coordination in local communities, the statement said.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.