Waxman Postpones DTV Delay Vote

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

Washington
-- House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), citing
Republican opposition in the Senate, postponed a vote Wednesday on a bill  to move the nation's switch to digital TV to June
12 from Feb.  17.

"Late
last week Senate Republicans blocked a bill to delay the transition date,"
Waxman said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "I have postponed
committee consideration of the DTV markup to give the committee more time to
assess the implications of the Senate action."

Waxman
didn't say how long the vote postponement would last.

Last
Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), acting on behalf of Senate
Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), attempted to pass a bill
delaying the transition until June 12. But unnamed Republicans prevented it
from passing by unanimous consent, without a committee hearing or Senate floor
debate.

Sen.
John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) have both voiced concern
about a 115-day delay as proposed by Waxman and Rockefeller, who share the
Obama administration's concern that millions of Americans have failed to
prepare for a digital-only broadcast TV system environment.

The
Obama White House and Capitol Hill Democrats are also troubled by the Commerce
Department's $1.34 billion digital-to-analog converter box coupon program,
which has a  waiting list for about 2
million $40 coupons.

Under
a federal budget law, Commerce can't send out new coupons until previously
mailed coupons have reached their 90-day expiration date. About 300,000 coupons
expire each week. The coupons help consumers cover the cost of converter boxes,
which extend the life of old analog TV sets that rely on an antenna.

"The
transition to digital television is not going well. There is not enough money
for the converter box coupon program and millions of Americans could experience
serious problems," Waxman said. "Delay of the deadline is our only
hope of lessening the impact on millions of consumers. Without a short, one-time
extension, millions of households will lose all television reception."

McCain
has said he could accept a short delay if the legislation allowed public
safety  organizations to access analog TV
spectrum-which they have been promise for many months-on Feb. 18.

Related