Republican Fires Back at Democrat's DTV Rule Criticism

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The rhetoric was heating up on Monday as Democrats and Republicans began to square off on a new DTV converter box program.

"Nobody is interested in spending an extra half-billion dollars of taxpayer's money to guarantee that every last television on some country squire's estate will work," said Larry Neal, a top Republican on the House Energy & Commerce Committee to B&C.

The comment was made in response to a story in which Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey characterized a new administration DTV converter box plan as unwittingly "fuzzy" and potentially confusing to consumers.

Neal wrote to B&C in an email: "If the palace horses really need to watch Mr. Ed reruns down at the stable, fine. But why are taxpayers responsible for buying them a converter box?" He is the deputy Republican staff director for the Energy and Commerce Committee. ,

The new DTV rules, announced Monday , would use the first billion dollars of its congressional funding to supply coupons toward the purchase of DTV-to-analog converter boxes to every household with an analog-only set,. The next $500 million, if it is needed, will go to houses with nothing but analog sets.

The coupons will be worth $40 each. The estimated price for a box is in $50-$70 range.

Markey had pushed for more money for the program and for using it to pay for any analog set that was rendered unusable after the Feb. 17, 2009 transition to digital television. Republicans argued for a more limited approach to avoid abuses of the subsidy program, among other reasons.

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