House Republicans: Delaying DTV Date Will Be 'Disaster''

Rep. Barton says moving date will cause more harm than good

The momentum toward changing the DTV transition date appears to be virtually unstoppable, but it is still not sitting well with Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who joined with other Republicans Monday to label the move a "disaster."

Barton, who helped set the Feb. 17 hard date as then-chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, took aim at the proposed move in a committee report on the broadband stimulus portion of the Obama administrations' economy recovery bill, which includes $650 million in funds for DTV-to-analog converter box coupons.

The report, issued by Barton's office, labeled the funding as an effort to pay for "the disaster that delaying the digital transition will cause."

The Senate has already passed a bill delaying the date, and the House is expected to follow suit.

The Republicans said moving the date from Feb. 17 to June 12 was unnecessary and will "cause more harm than good by confusing consumers and jeopardizing spectrum earmarked for public safety." The Senate Monday night passed a bill that would move the date to June 12. It would also allow public safety entities to get access to spectrum as soon as broadcasters moved off it, but would not require any of those broadcasters to vacate early. Police and firefighters had sought a carve-out in the bill that would require broadcasters using the frequencies going to emergency communications to make the switch Feb. 17 as originally planned.

In a letter to the transition team earlier this month, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials and the police and fire chief associations "strongly recommended" that any extension of the Feb. 17 date "exclude television channels occupying spectrum that will be used for public safety communications."

Barton and company said that the change would cost millions to effectively undo five years of planning. "To top it off, legislation delaying the DTV transition has not even passed, so we may be allocating $650 million with nothing to spend it on."

Barton last week proposed his own DTV bill that would have unclogged the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon program, but without moving the DTV date.

The Obama administration proposed moving the date after the National Telecommunications & Information Administration announced it was putting coupon requests on a waiting list, with that list now in the millions.