Rockefeller Seeks "Doable" DTV Delay Bill

Working through public safety communications concerns.
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Commerce Committee Chairman Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa.) is working through issues of public safety communications as his committee tries swiftly to come up with a bill that would both increase funding for the fast-approaching digital transition and make that approach a little less fast.

But it needs to be one legislator’s can agree on and that can pass swiftly. "He is working very closely with the Democratic leadership on a bill that will pass, basically, by unanimous consent, one that everybody will be happy with on the Democratic and Republican side," said a Senate aide familiar with the Senator's thinking.

Both the House and Senate are now working on bills to delay the Feb. 17 DTV transition date--by 90 to 120 days, the currently handicappers are predicting. That flurry of activity comes after the government had to stop sending out DTV-to-analog converter box subsidies when it reached a funding cap, which in turn prompted a worried Barack Obama transition team to ask that the date be delayed.

That is according to the aide, who says the bill needs to be one that everyone can agree to and, preferably, pass by unanimous consent to speed the process along. The sticking points are apparently where to get the money and exactly how long the delay should be.

Police and fire chiefs have asked that any delay not include spectrum being reclaimed from analog broadcasters that is going to emergency communications. "the bottom line is that, whatever the Rockefeller bill has in it, it would focus on public safety," said the aide familiar with the Senator's thinking, but "not just the release of the spectrum but also the public safety issue of getting information through your television."

Earlier Wednesday, House Republicans sent a letter to the Obama transition team invoking 9/11 in suggesting the date not be delayed so that first responders would get their spectrum.

The bill also has to workable, said the aide. "Senator Rockefeller has absolutely no interest in producing something that people won't be able to agree to," said the aide. "But something has to happen quickly."

No word on how fast the bill will get done. The Obama transition team continues to work with Rockefeller on a bill that is "simple and doable," said the aide.