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Bill Provides $65M for DTV Transition

As expected, the House Energy & Commerce Committee passed a bill that would free up some more money for the digital-TV transition.

The bill makes $65 million available Feb. 17, 2009, to help low-power stations make the transition to digital.

The bill, which already passed the Senate, will also allow some of the $10 million allocated to help translator stations, which help broadcast full-power stations to reach remote areas, for DTV education, since that program has more than enough money to pay the $1,000 per translator that it will take to make the conversion.

The way the DTV-transition bill had been written, low-power stations would not get the money until October 2010, a year-and-a-half after full-power stations make the DTV switch.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration requested that the money be freed up early so that more stations could go digital sooner. The NTIA hopes to alleviate some of the concerns raised by the fact that its DTV-to-analog converter boxes are not permitted to have analog tuners in them and are not required to pass through analog signals.

With most low-powers not switching to digital in February 2009, the boxes could make it harder to view thousands of stations, including many Spanish-language affiliates.