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The government’s top DTV transition official resigns

The government’s top official in the DTV transition — John Kneuer — has resigned. As the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Kneuer was supposed to oversee the transition to digital television and supervise federal subsidies for converter boxes.

A government spokesman said Kneuer, a lawyer before being appointed to the job in May 2006, will resign this month “to pursue new opportunities” and was leaving by his own choice.

Though he frequently reassured Congress that all was going well with the DTV transition, Kneuer’s resignation as the Bush Administration’s top telecommunications adviser came amid alarm on Capitol Hill over the manner in which the government is handling the conversion from analog to digital broadcasting.

There’s worry in Congress that on Feb. 17, 2009, when analog broadcasting ends, that tens of millions of televisions that are not equipped to receive digital signals will no longer be able to receive programming. Congress allocated $1.5 billion for viewers to spend on converter boxes, but only $5 million of the total was earmarked for consumer education.

After the first of the year, the government will be making available to each household two coupons worth $40 each that can be used to buy two converter boxes. The NTIA is responsible for administering the program.

Taking over Kneuer’s duties until the White House nominates a replacement will be Meredith Baker, deputy assistant secretary, who will serve as acting NTIA administrator.