Rockefeller says DTV transition will unleash consumer confusion

The soon-to-become chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce — Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia — last week said the nation is not ready for the DTV transition “without substantially more involvement from every level of government, the entire communications industry, and willing community organizations across America.”

Rockefeller, in a speech before the U.S. Senate, said “when people are cut off from their televisions, it is not just a matter of convenience; it is a matter of public safety. We simply cannot stand by and let people lose access to emergency alerts and public safety communications.”

“I am especially concerned because this transition is going to hit our most vulnerable citizens — the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and those with language barriers — the hardest,” he continued. “We risk leaving those who are most reliant on over-the-air broadcast television for their contact with the outside world literally in the dark. These consumers are also disproportionately rural.”

Rockefeller made the comments in a statement on his proposed legislation for a 30-day extension past Feb. 17 for analog broadcasting of emergency and DTV transition information only. The bill passed the Senate, but has yet to pass the House. It is expected to reach the House floor after the Thanksgiving break.

However, Rockefeller promised the legislation is “no silver bullet” and said he will work with his committee colleagues on a more comprehensive plan for the DTV transition when he takes the chairmanship.

Rockefeller has been critical of how the transition has been planned and managed so far. “There is no question the transition to DTV could have and should have been far better managed and far better planned. But at this point, we must focus on fixing it not laying blame,” he said.