The flurry of exchanges between terrestrial and satellite radio companies notwithstanding, the last couple of weeks in August are usually a snoozefest in Washington, with legislators and regulators making tracks for the beach to crack open a few—blue crabs, that is.
But for one agency, the heat is still very much on. The folks over at the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) say that they are still on track for a mid- to late-August date for awarding the outside contract to administer the controversial digital-to-analog converter box program.
That's where the government must distribute millions of coupons good toward the purchase of a converter box for all those analog-only TV sets. It's bound to become more controversial as the digital conversion date comes nearer.
NTIA will need to keep track of the coupons, try to get them in the right hands, and let people know they only have three months to redeem the coupons before they become just so much confetti to throw on Feb. 17, 2009, when the switchover to DTV is scheduled to take place.
NITA is the Bush administration's chief telecommunications policy arm on these matters, so the administration will get a black eye if that part of the program does not proceed quickly and efficiently, not the two words that leap to mind when thinking about government programs.
Unlike visitors' centers and road repairs, this project has to come in on time or there will be heck to pay on the Hill, as top House Democrats including John Dingell and Ed Markey have made abundantly clear. That keeps the NTIA working through the long, hot August in the nation's capital.