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Commerce Committee sets hard date for end of digital transition

The Senate Commerce Committee voted 19-3 to approve a measure that sets April 7, 2009, as the hard date for completion the transition from analog to digital television transmission.

The committee’s reconciliation bill called the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 also set Jan. 28, 2008, as the start date for auctioning off spectrum recovered from television broadcasters. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the spectrum auction will raise $10 billion.

The bill allocates $3 billion from the auction proceeds to fund a digital-to-analog converter box subsidy program. Ted Stevens (R-AK) who chairs the committee and offered the bill with co-chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI), told participants at the Free Enterprise Fund Symposium in Washington, DC, that the converter box program will provide for a $10 consumer co-pay for device that costs about $50.

The bill also set aside $200 million from the auction proceeds to fund a program to transition Low Power TV stations and TV translators.

DTV multicast must carry was not addressed in the bill; however, the matter may be offered as an amendment on the Senate floor.

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