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Waxman Says DTV Date Likely To Move

Related:The DTV Countdown: Complete Coverage of the DTV Transition

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) says he expects Congress will delay the DTV transition date.

Asked Monday whether he thought the date would move, he said "I think so, but only short-term."

Waxman, newly christened chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, was mingling with NBC bigwigs and other Washington notables at a brunch in Washington Monday in advance of Tuesday's inauguration.

Waxman last week proposed a bill that would move the date from Feb. 17 to June 12, as well as speed the distribution of DTV-to-analog converter box coupons, allow viewers to reapply for expired coupons, and take other associated steps.

On a parallell track is a bill from Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) that would simply move the date and leave other issues for another bill. His goal is to get the most easily passable bill through the Congress as quickly as possible.

Congress will have to move fast to move the date, since it is now only four weeks away.

Waxman also said that a mark-up of his version of the DTV date-move bill was still on track for a Wednesday hearing (1:30 p.m.). A mark-up is when legislators discuss and ammend bills before sending a bill along--if it is approved--for a vote in the full House.

Expected to be added to Waxman's draft bill by the mark-up is language related to first responders, who were scheduled to get reclaimed analog TV spectrum Feb. 17 for use in emergency communications. The bill as drafted made no mention of that issue.

Police and firefighters asked Congress for a carveout from any delay bill so it could get access to the spectrum on time.

The incoming Obama administration asked Waxman, Rockefeller and others to move the date after the National Telecommunications & Information Administration announced it was putting requests for DTV-to-analog converter box coupons on a waiting list because it had temporarily run out of money to distribute them.

Private companies, notably Verizon, also are scheduled to get some of that spectrum, but the bill already talks about requiring the FCC to help accommodate those companies, which bid billions for rights to the spectrum at aucion.