House Approves DTV Delay - Page 2

"Beyond the converter box program, which is at a standstill, more resources will be needed to staff the FCC's call centers, where waiting times are very long, calls are frequently disconnected and it is very difficult to speak to a live technical service representative," Boucher said. "Only by delaying the transition and utilizing the $650 million contained in the economic recovery bill to address these problems can massive viewer disruption be avoided."
While Senate Republicans raised few objections to the delay, House GOP members bitterly opposed the move, claiming the nation was as ready as it could be for the digital transition. "If the new standard is 100 percent [readiness], we're not going to be there on June 12 or June 12, 2010," said Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.).
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the former chairman of the House Telecom Subcommittee and current ranking member, insisted a $250 million infusion into the digital converter box fund would facilitate keeping the Feb. 17 deadline.
"The DTV converter coupon program is not out of money; only half of the $1.5 billion in the coupon program has been spent," Barton said. "This delay is not necessary, nor is the $650 million in the stimulus needed."
Boucher, though, said there is not enough time left before Feb. 17 to make Barton's plan work.
"The provision of more money now without moving the transition date would not avoid viewer disruption," Boucher said. "It takes one week to process 1.6 million coupon requests, and so in the 13 days before the transition, the backlog of 3.7 million requests could not be processed even if more money for the program is provided."
Boucher added that beyond the processing time, more time would be needed for mailing the coupons and even more time would be needed for consumers to receive the coupons and actually redeem the coupons.
The House debate represented the first discussion of the bill in either the House or the Senate. Hearings were not held in either chamber and the Senate version was approved on a unanimous voice vote without discussion.