Barton and Stearns Ask FCC and NTIA to Prioritize Converter Box Coupons for Analog-Only Homes

House members say over-the-air households need priority over those with cable and satellite

The ranking members of the House Energy & Commerce and Communications, Tech and Internet Subcommittee have asked the FCC and National Telecommunications Administration to put analog-only homes at the front of the line for DTV-to-analog converter box coupons ahead of cable and satellite homes.

In a letter to both, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL), asked NTIA to revise its rules to give priority to coupons from over-the-air households over those with cable and satellite, and to giver priority to first-time requests from over-the-air homes over re-requests.

According to the DTV date-change bill, everyone who let their coupons expire can ask for new ones. The money to reissue those coupons comes from the $650 million in DTV funds set aside in the massive economic stimulus package signed into law Tuesday by President Barack Obama.

They also urged the FCC and NTIA to make a list of the stations transitioning before the new June 12 hard date (641 stations have already pulled the plug) available to consumers on its Web sites-the FCC already has such a list-"and over your telephone lines" so that consumers know how the transition will affect them.

Barton and Stearns were both strongly opposed to moving the date, introducing a bill that would have instead freed up money already in the coupon program.

They took the opportunity in the letter ( to continue that criticism. "By stalling the DTV transition, the Obama Administration has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory."

They said the delay was unnecessary and would be certain to "confuse and perplex" viewers.

"Nothing can completely undo the chaos that this delay will inflict," they said, but argued that prioritizing the coupon program "may [make it] possible to mitigate the harm."