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Sen. Rockefeller Unveils Amended DTV Date Bill

It’s official, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.VA) late Thursday announced a “bipartisan” compromise version of his DTV-delay bill that moves the DTV transition date from Feb. 17 to June 12.

It is a compromise, struck with ranking Repbublican Committee member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).  Rockefeller initially wanted the bill to deal only with moving the date, but the compromise also “extends the FCC’s auction authority to pay for the costs of the delay, reaffirms a broadcasters’ right to make the transition before June 12, permits the FCC to award vacant spectrum space to public safety officials, and fixes the converter box coupon program.”

Sen. Rockfeller said he does not expect the Senate to take up the bill until sometime next week.

He also said he hoped delaying the date until June 12 was the only delay needed, but suggested that would be the case “if we are able to make substantial progress on the administration of the transition,”  and  adding “barring unforeseen emergencies/”
The additions to the bill not only makes it palatable to Senate Republicans, but also brings it more in line with a bill backed by House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), who delayed work on his bill this week, saying he would wait to see what happened in the Senate.

Rockefeller did not include a copy of the bill with his announcement, so it was not clear what costs the FCC would be paying for. Broadcasters have said it would cost them millions collectively to keep two signals going for four more months. The Obama administration has inserted $650 million in DTV transition assistance in the economic stimulus package.

“The DTV Delay Act will not fix all of the problems associated with the transition,” Rockefeller told his colleages in inserting his support for the amended bill into the Congressional Record. “More work needs to be done to ensure that consumers are aware of the transition and get the help they need. But it gives us all the time to do the transition right.  Time to develop a new plan, time to implement a new set of ideas to manage the transition, and time to make sure that in the switch to digital signals no American is left behind.”

“Senator Hutchison and I are committed to making sure every American is able to manage the DTV transition without undue hardship. We are working on initiatives to be included in the economic recovery package. If we are able to make substantial progress on the administration of the transition this should be the last delay we have to seek. I know I want this to be the last delay and I know the Obama Administration shares our commitment to getting this right so that we can avoid any further delays.”