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CERC Letter To FCC

10/17/2008 10:59:00 AM Eastern

Dear Chairman Martin:

Thank you for your letters of September 23, to Gary Shapiro of CEA and me, regarding the utility of battery-powered devices in the DTV Transition; and your letter to me of September 15 in which you expressed your concern about helping all consumers to afford Coupon Eligible Converter Devices. On behalf of the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition (CERC) I appreciate the kind words, in your letters and in the Wilmington ceremonies, about our member’s efforts to ensure that the DTV Transition succeeds. I can assure you that these efforts, and our coalition’s cooperation with you and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will continue.

As I noted in my recent congressional testimony, we are proud that every CERC member is an active and vigorous participant in the TV Converter Box Coupon program (no other organization can say this). CERC and its members are and have been committed to advancing and realizing the DTV goals of Congress and the Commission.

As you are aware, CERC’s joint efforts with the FCC pre-dated the passage of the DTV Transition legislation, and our work with the NTIA helped ensure that its program would be one that retailers could join and administer with minimum burden on consumers. Our members have followed through to make it convenient for consumers to find and buy coupon eligible converter boxes in our members’ thousands of retail locations throughout the United States.

The issues you raise in your letters reflect the dynamic nature of the transition and the marketplace. Like our government and private sector partners in the DTV Transition Coalition, CERC members came to realize that the demand for analog pass-through Converters would be much more significant than anyone had appreciated. 

This resulted in every CERC member, entirely independently (but with encouragement from the FCC and others) either switching over entirely to, or adding, pass-through models to their product assortments so that by the end of July every participating CERC member had coupon-eligible pass-through models available.

As Gary Shapiro of CEA noted in his letter to you of October 7, the marketplace has been responding to the demand for battery-powered portable devices that allow consumers to remain informed (as well as entertained) in a variety of circumstances and by a variety of means. While CERC, which includes directly competitive retailers, cannot facilitate or allow any discussion of product planning or pricing among its members, I share Mr. Shapiro’s confidence that the market will continue to recognize and respond to the need for the sort of emergency-capable devices that you discuss in your letter.

Similarly, with respect to your September 15 letter, as CERC’s Executive Director I am proud of the enormous efforts our members and other retail competitors have made to serve converter box consumers in every variety of circumstance. This has included air-freighting shipments to areas of local shortage; meeting the extraordinary demand that emerged in Puerto Rico; donating converters for distribution by charitable groups; and assigning personnel to train volunteers who in turn train others to assist consumers with home installations. 

As I am sure you are also aware, every CERC member was obliged to re-program and re-test its national point-of-sale system, for all products they sell, in order to meet the time-limited demand for Converters. This was accomplished, in most cases, in time to meet the NTIA schedule for mailing Coupons. In all cases, this reflected extraordinary effort and exertion by our members and their technical staffs – especially as most of the implementation planning occurred during their critical holiday shopping season.

In addition to the two CERC members that accept Coupons and sell Converters online, there are now 33 other on-line sellers of Converters.  (The first, and for a time only, online seller was a CERC member.) In addition to the four CERC members that accept Coupons and sell Converters by phone, there are now nine other telephone sellers of Converter boxes in the NTIA program. 

And there are literally tens of thousands of other retail establishments now stocking converters. This is a remarkable accomplishment for all concerned, and demonstrates the competitive vitality of markets for even the shortest-lived consumer electronics products.

As was reflected in our quarterly DTV Partners report, CERC and its members have worked to make completely effective every FCC regulation and request that has related to the transition to digital television, and we have continued to work with broadcasters and our other partners. 

Most recently, CERC and NTIA took the initiative in launching a “Help Your Neighbor” program within the Transition Coalition. CERC and its members, having stepped up to the Wilmington challenge, have pledged full support and cooperation to the FCC’s remarkable 81-city national DTV awareness and education tour. 

We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission and our other public and private partners in the Transition Coalition to identify and implement public policy and free market solutions to the challenges that will continue to arise. As always we appreciate your efforts to keep us informed of your own concerns and views, as well as of the Commission’s initiatives.

Sincerely,

Christopher McLean

Executive Director

Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition