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Boucher Bill Would Use Spectrum-Auction Funds for Converter Boxes

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) said he will introduce legislation to take money from the Federal Communications Commission's 700-megahertz spectrum auction to help pay for more digital-TV-to-analog converter boxes.

Currently, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's coupon program has almost $1.5 billion to cover converter boxes. But the National Association of Broadcasters said that would cover only about one-half of the estimated 70 million "broadcast-only" sets.

NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said the association "strongly supports," Boucher's plan.

The FCC auction, currently winding down, looks like it will raise a little over $19.5 billion, with only $10 billion of that already spoken for by the treasury, including to cover that $1.5 billion (some of the money goes to administering the program) NTIA converter-box-subsidy program.

Boucher told a Media Institute audience in Washington, D.C., Monday that he would introduce the legislation.

"We are always willing to talk with members of Congress about the Coupon Program and their ideas to ensure its success," said NTIA Spokesperson Todd Sedmak, adding that NTIA chief Meredith Baker will testify before the Senate on April 8 about the program.

"The coupon program is funded for 33.5 million coupons, and to date, more than 7.6 million coupons have been requested," said Sedmak. "The public may redeem their coupons at more than 10,000 retail outlets, like Best Buy, RadioShack and Wal-Mart; regional grocers HEB in Texas and Meijer in the Midwest; and online retailers, and"

Baker has said she thinks the program has enough money to cover the people who will need the boxes.