Lawmaker Files DTV Delay Legislation

NEW YORK Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, incoming chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, filed legislation Thursday to delay the transition to digital TV until June 12, four months later than the current Feb. 17 date.

Playing the blame game, Rockefeller accused the outgoing Bush administration of “mismanaging” the DTV initiative.

“Over 2 million Americans are waiting to receive a coupon to help them offset the cost of equipment that will help them manage the transition, [and] millions more don’t have the proper information they need,” Rockefeller said, referring to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s waiting list, created when the federal bureau ran out of funding to issue the $40 coupons for converter boxes.

According to the latest data from Nielsen, which does not cover the holiday season, about 6.8 percent of TV households were unprepared for the transition as of early December.

“I am especially concerned, because this transition is going to hit our most vulnerable citizens — the poor, the elderly, the disabled and those with language barriers — the hardest. Rural communities that rely on over-the-air television will be especially impacted,” Rockefeller said.

Instead of a delay, Republican lawmakers are working on bipartisan legislation that would allow the government to issue more coupons. Earlier this week, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Tex., argued that a delay would impact first responders such as firefighters, police officers and others who are waiting for the additional spectrum.