White House Seeks to Speed DTV Switch

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President Bush has ordered the Commerce Department to establish a private-sector advisory committee to help the federal government keep the digital-TV transition on track and to resolve other tricky telecommunications issues, such as promoting nationwide, affordable access to high-speed Internet service.

The White House dictate was included in a Spectrum Policy Initiative unveiled Tuesday. Formation of the committee was among the recommendations suggested in a two-part report issued by the Commerce Department in June.

Although the FCC has said it will be hard to complete the switch to all-digital TV before 2009, the White House still insists that the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration try to wrap it up by Dec. 31, 2006, the government’s target date for reclaiming old analog channels. (Few expect that date to be met because stations aren’t required to give up the channels until 85% of their markets are equipped to receive digital programming, which could take many more years to reach.) The reclaimed channels will be doled out, in part, to local fire, police and other public-safety departments.

To facilitate that transfer, the White House also asked the FCC to consider requiring stations to participate in a voluntary coordination system, also known as CAPRAD, which is administered by the National Institute of Justice.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, applauds the White House proposals. “President Bush's spectrum initiative is exactly the right prescription at the right time for our nation,” he says. “It is essential that we have the proper spectrum-management plans and policies in place for our economic well-being and so that we can continue to see further growth and development of wireless technologies.”

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