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House Committee Reconsiders Moving DTV Hard Date

The House Energy & Commerce Committee is considering not moving the DTV hard date.

That is according to Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, who has opposed moving the date from Feb. 17.

"Chairman [Henry] Waxman talked to me and said maybe we can still do something that wouldn't require a delay," Barton told C-SPAN in an interview for their Communicators series.

Barton said that staffers are currently working on the House side "to see if we couldn't yet come together with something so you don't have to do a delay."

Barton has proposed fixing accounting rules and allowing NTIA to send out DTV-to-analog converter box coupons currently on a government waiting list.

He pointed out that he and former Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee chairman Ed Markey had been working on a bill to fix the mailout accounting problem before it got superseded by the Obama administration's call for the delay and the introduction of the current House bill, introduced by Waxman, to move the date to June 12.

Barton said changing those rules would preclude the need for the $650million the Obama administration has put in an economic stimulus billto help fund more converters. He called that figure a "pot of money looking for a problem."He said that "we appropriated sufficient money all these converter box redemptions that are yet to be done. We don't need additional money."

Barton said that off the record, nobody in industry wants the delay, but that on the record "nobody wants to be the skunk at the garden party here in the new Obama era."

Barton said that there has been no "uproar" in congressional offices from viewers in markets that made the transition early.

Barton said he, himself, has not asked for a coupon yet. "But I am also not going to blame the government," he said. as far as he was concerned, people should be able to get the converter box, get a receipt, and send that to the treasury if that is a way to fix the waiting list.

But won't there be a political problem, he was asked, if some people wake up on Feb. 18 and can't get TV. He said that since almost everybody knows the transition is coming, "you only have yourself to blame."

"There are going to be some senior citizens and some disabled Americans that perhaps don't realize it," he said, "but you are to have that no matter what.... If you are 99% ready to go you don't delay because of the 1% who either is not focused on it or are perhaps so incapacitated that regardless of when you do it they won't be able to comply.

Barton said in hindsight that Congress should have better thought through the converter-box program, and maybe had a contingency fund.