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The August Heat Is On

The last couple of weeks in August are usually a snoozefest in Washington, with legislators and regulators making tracks for the beach to crack open a few–blue crabs that is. But for one agency, the heat is still very much on.

The folks over at the National Telecommunications & Information Administration say that they are still on track for mid-to-late-August to award the contract administering the digital-to-analog converter box program.

That’s where the government hands out millions of coupons good toward the purchase of a converter box for all those analog-only TV sets. It will need to keep track of the coupons, try to get them in the right hands, and let people know they only have three months to redeem the coupons before they become just so much confetti to throw on Feb. 17, 2009, when analog TV’s, with a few exceptions for places with translators, become useless as a recepticle for that vaunted over-the-air TV signal.

The coupons need to be ready to roll this January, which is less than five months away, or, measured in Washington time, yesterday.

NITA is the Bush administration’s chief telecommunications policy adviser, so the administration will get a black eye if that part of the program does not proceed quickly and efficiently, not the two words that leap to mind when thinking about government programs. Unlike visitors centers and road repairs, this project has to come in on time or there will be heck to pay on the Hill.