Lawmakers Seek to Halt DTV Transition Plan

Sep 17, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Democratic Congressmen Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Rick Boucher of Virginia on Friday urged the Federal Communications Commission to pull the plug on a controversial plan to require broadcasters to make the switch to digital TV in 2009.

Under current law, broadcasters don’t have to make the switch until 85 percent the homes in their markets are able to receive DTV signals-something that’s not expected to happen for a decade or more. But in a major change that’s expected to go to a vote as soon as this fall, FCC Chairman Michael Powell is proposing to modify the agency’s regulations to count cable’s subscribers toward the penetration cap by 2009, clearing the way for an immediate conversion.

In a Sept. 17 letter to Mr. Powell, the congressmen alleged that the FCC’s plan runs afoul of the wishes of Congress. “Indeed, abandoning Congress’s 85 percent standard without simultaneously developing a comprehensive policy to address the estimated 70 million analog legacy sets would be illegal as a matter of law and reckless as a matter of public policy,” the congressmen wrote. “Accordingly, we implore you to postpone this vote until further congressional hearings and discussions with your agency can be held.”