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NTIA Eyes Outsourcing DTV Subsidy Program

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration is looking for some input on outsourcing the administration of the digital-to-analog DTV converter box subsidy.

The Congress has allocated up to $1.5 billion to provide up to two, $40 coupons per household--NTIA proposes confining it to analog-only households--to help pay for the converters, which will allow analog TV sets to keep working when TV goes all digital in February 2009.

NTIA this week put out a request for information--which is not yet a request for proposal--from organizations "with the experience, qualifications, solution approaches, and best practices necessary to implement and administer the Digital to Analog Converter Box Coupon Program (the Coupon Program) required by Title III of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005."

On Aug. 11, NTIA will hold an open house in an auditorium in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, MD, to brief interested potential bidders on the program. NTIA wants the company's input by Sept. 15.

NTIA acting chief John Kneuer has already said the agency will need plenty of outside help for the mandatory public information campaign to warn everyone of the coming switch, which Kneuer has called the biggest sea change in media history. The government has only allocated $5 million for the campaign, which could buy a couple of 30-second Super Bowl spots and that's about it.

Still no word on when Kneuer will get a confirmation hearing in the Senate Communications Subcommittee. Republicans wanted to add him to a nomination hearing last week for some Amtrak board members and Coast Guard officers, but Democrats said they were informed of the planned addition on too short notice. Odds are lengthening on a hearing this week, which would push it to September at the earliest, since the Senate is scheduled to start its August break Friday.