Republicans Reps Say Feb. 17 Switch Was Relatively Painless

Some of those who opposed date-change praise smooth transition on original date

A hearing on reauthorizing the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act briefly turned into a shout-out for the relative ease of the DTV transition.

During a hearing in the House Communications, Technology and Internet Subcommittee, a number of the Republicans who opposed moving the DTV date pointed out how smoothly the transition had gone for the hundreds of stations who went ahead and pulled the plug on analog on the original Feb. 17 date.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), himself a former broadcaster, said that his office had received no calls on the issue-"and we are in the phone book," he said.

He said that the GM's in his district got "a couple hundred calls" mostly about plugging in boxes or re-scanning for channels. He suggested that, given that relative dearth of outcry, Congress should consider rethinking the $90 million it was planning to spend on DTV outreach, or the $650 million in the economic stimulus package that is going to jump-start the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon program.

Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois said he thought his office had only gotten one complaint, and applauded the relative smoothness of the transition.

Adding his voice to the DTV mutual admiration society was Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska. He said that the two stations out of five in his district that made the switch Feb. 17 received about 550 calls, mostly about set-up and channel scanning, and only 10 calls from people who had not converter box or coupons. He said all those folks were able to get a converter within a day.

No Democrats on the committee expressed similar sentiments, however. Republicans in the House overwhelmingly opposed moving the date or setting aside millions for more education or coupons.