Boucher Weighing DTV-Fix Options

No endorsement yet for a DTV solution plan from new house telecom chairman

The new chairman of the House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee--Democrat Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia--has not yet endorsed any of the DTV fixes being proposed by the Obama administration or his fellow Democrats.

Congressman Rick Boucher is looking at a range of options at present and has not endorsed nor taken off the table any of them--direct appropriations, waiver of the ADA (Antideficiency Act), [or] moving the date," said Press Secretary Courtney Lamie.

 All those would attempt to unclog the distribution of $40 coupons toward the purchase of DTV-to-analog converter boxes that allow over-the-air analog TV's to continue to receive a signal after TV stations convert to digital Feb. 17.

Currently those viewers are on a waiting list because the government has reached a statutory ceiling on spending money to distribute them and must wait for coupons to expire and money to be freed up. Money is being freed up every day, but not enough to meet the daily requests for coupons. Over a million people are now on the waiting list, with no relief in sight unless Congress frees up the money.

 Boucher's stance is in contrast to the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA), who last week came out in support of Barack Obama's request that Congress move the Feb. 17 date, saying he "will support delaying the current date of the DTV transition until we can do it right.”  He is already drafting a bill--with the help of Obama transition team members--to do just that.

 Boucher's predecessor in the top telecom oversight post, Ed Markey (D-MA) has already drafted a bill that would free up coupon money by adjusting the legislation authorizing the program, including requiring the Post Office to expedite delivery of the coupons.

 But while Markey has said the date "may" have to be moved, like Boucher he has not yet endorsed moving the date as the solution to the problem.

 According to the Obama transition team, the problem extends beyond just a slowdown in coupon delivery to a general lack of funding for DTV education. "With coupons unavailable, support and education insufficient, and the most vulnerable Americans exposed, I urge you to consider a change to the legislatively-mandated analog cutoff date."