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Eshoo: Allow Reapplication for Coupons

Viewers won't "zero in" on the digital-TV transition until the last minute, which is why the government needs to let folks reapply for subsidy coupons they've already gotten but allowed to expire (the coupons expire after 90 days).

That was the read from Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a member of the House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee, on this week's DTV-oversight hearing in her committee.

In an interview for C-SPAN’s The Communicators, Eshoo said she did not believe the administration's view that the DTV-to-analog converter-box-subsidy coupons cannot be reissued to people who have let their coupons expire. "I think we will need to [extend them]," she said. "People have gotten these coupons and they are sitting around the house."

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration asked Congress to free up more money to administer the coupon program, saying that it could run out of those funds by the end of January, weeks before the March 31 deadline for applying for the coupons.

Asked if Congress could do that in the waning days of the session, Eshoo said it might be done in a continuing resolution, but it was up to the NTIA to make the case for the money it will need.

Eshoo also made a pitch for a lengthy retransmission-consent-negotiation quiet period -- which cable has pushed for -- rather than the narrower window broadcasters have advocated. She said the reason was the National Football League playoffs. "I don't think we want anything to go dark during the playoffs," she added, although that potential has historically always been there in contentious retrans negotiations.

Eshoo, whose district includes Silicon Valley, said she thought companies should be able to track online surfing for the purposes of behavioral advertising only if their subscribers affirmatively opt in, rather than making them opt out if they don't want that information tracked, adding, "The burden should be on the company, not on the consumer."

Eshoo said privacy is "part of the DNA of Americans. To be able to track patterns of individuals, I do not think is anyone's business … That seems offensive to me." She added that she did not blame people for objecting to being tracked, saying, "I would be the first one to object, whether it is a company doing it in my district or not."

As to a possible antitrust investigation of the Google-Yahoo advertising partnership, Eshoo said: "If the Justice Department finds cause to be looking into something, that is their responsibility and I stand behind them."

Eshoo promised that the network-neutrality debate would continue. "It will be raised in the next Congress, rest assured," she said. "Net neutrality is alive and well." Eshoo was a co-sponsor of network-neutrality legislation in this Congress with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and said it would be reintroduced in the next one.

Eshoo said telecommunications policy under President Barack Obama would include Federal Communications Commission appointments that would "not be about just a handful of interests," but that would incubate newborn companies to allow them to compete, to become the next Comcast (the nation's largest cable operator).