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Democrats Delay Kneuer Hearing

The Senate Commerce Committee Thursday held confirmation hearings on the nominations of some Coast Guard Admirals and Amtrak board members, but still no hearing for acting National Telecommunications & Information Administration head John Kneuer.

It has been over two and a half months since the White House indicated he was the president's choice to head the NTIA, the administration's chief telecommunications policy adviser and responsible for administering the DTV converter-box subsidy that will keep millions of analog TV sets from turning into plant stands come 2009. NTIA released its plan for the subsidy this week.

The Majority side at the Senate Commerce Committee, which worked on the law that established the DTV subsidy, was also working to get Kneuer on the schedule for Thursday's nomination hearing, but was unsuccessful. A spokesman for the Democrats said they had only gotten notice of the desire to add Kneuer to the list Wednesday night--short of the customary minimum 24 hours--and wanted more time to review it and come up with questions.

The Senate is in session next week before recessing until September. Kneuer could get his hearing, and almost certain confirmation--next week, though a spokesman for the Democrats thought September was a better bet.

A source said the majority was working with Co-chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) to find an "acceptable" date.

Kneuer, who has been deputy assistant secretary for communications and information at Commerce, has become a familiar face in the industry.

In March he testified before a Senate hearing on spectrum policy, then traveled to the National Cable Show in April to talk about the digital transition. Last month, he talked to a Washington Media Institute crowd about the challenge of administering the subsidy, part of what he said was the biggest ever change--the DTV switch-over--in the industry's history.