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Obama Team Urges Passage of DTV Date Bill

Posted at 11:26 AM ET, Jan. 16, 2009

Barack Obama's transition team has sent a second letter to the House Energy & Commerce and Senate Commerce Committees urging them to approve legislation that would move the DTV transition date from Feb. 17, and to set a delay of "limited and specific duration."

The letter, from transition team co-chair John Podesta, appeared to be preaching to the choir. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairs of the Senate and House committees, respectively, have both drafted bills that set new dates of June 12.

In his letter, Podesta said the DTV transition situation has gotten worse since his first letter Jan. 8, and that "lack of planning has left many consumers vulnerable," particularly the low-income, disabled, elderly and those living in rural populations, he said.

He also predicted that there would be over six million people on the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon waiting list by Feb. 17. The National Telecommunications & Information Administration cannot guarantee that anyone will get a coupon before Feb. 17, whether or not more money is immediately freed up to start sending them out to the more than two million people currently on the list, he said.

The letter also cites concerns of a Republican FCC Commissioner, Robert McDowell, about the "capacity and competence" of the FCC's current call DTV transition information center effort. McDowell said he got busy signals and hang-ups when he tried it himself.

"We respectfully reiterate that only legislation that includes a delay of limited and specific duration will provide Congress and the new administration a realistic upportunity to resuscitate and modify the coupon program."