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Democrats Voice Concern on DTV Readiness

Related: The DTV Countdown -- B&C's Complete Coverage of the DTV Transition

VIDEO: DTV Transition 101 -- A video guide to the Digital Switch

Democratic legislators are registering increasing concerns about the DTV transition.

Michigan Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak said in an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series that "I think people are aware of it, but I don't think that we have done enough to make sure we are ready for it."

Stupak says he doesn't think enough has been done to make sure everyone has a DTV-to-analog converter box or knows how to use it, and says "there will be gaps in coverage throughout the nation."

That comes as Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), soon-to-be chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, pledged that he would push for a more coordinated effort and similarly complained about how the program has been run.  

Stupak is a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, the Telecommunications Subcommittee, and is chairman of the Investigations & Oversight Subcommittee, which has been investigating the FCC over complaints about how it is run. 

Asked what he thinks should be done, or should have been done, to help with the transition, Stupak said he thinks the 90-day expiration date on the coupon should have been extended, noting that constituents have had coupons in hand, but the stores didn't have the boxes.

Saying "this is not going to be a seamless transition," he called for a task force, including mobile trucks with antennas, to check out reception issues. He said the FCC needs to get much more aggressive. "I just fear that come the middle of February, when we flip that switch to digital television, there are going to be a lot of fuzzy sets out there and our phones are going to erupt."

Stupak said he wished the FCC would come up and test in his district in Upper Michigan, where there are iron ore deposits that already adversely affect cell phone service and TV reception: "Each state has some unique factors that need to be looked at, and I don't think enough of that has been done."

But Stupak said he did not see the Feb. 17, 2009, date changing.

Stupak said that with Henry Waxman atop the Energy & Commerce Committee, he expects Ed Markey to be the Chairman of the Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee, so he doesn't think there will be that much change.

Stupak, who had been a big backer of fellow Michigan Democrat John Dingell, who Waxman unseated as chairman, said he wasn't sure what Rep. Waxman, of California, brought to the table in terms of communications policy: "I don't remember him ever being on the subcommittee with us. When we were doing hearings on DTV, the satellite home viewer act, I don't remember him taking an active role.