FCC chair blames Bush administration for DTV problems

Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps placed blame for the confusion and legislative scrambling surrounding a possible digital television (DTV) delay on the Bush administration, saying the preparation for the switch should have been more focused and sustained.

"At this point, we will not have--we cannot have--a seamless DTV transition," Copps told the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee. "There is no way to do--in the 26 days new leadership has had here--what we should have been laser-focused on for 26 months. That time is lost, and it's lost at a cost. There is consumer disruption down the road we've been on. We need to realize this."

Last week, the House, by a vote a 258-168 vote, defeated a measure to delay the transition until June 12, a bill which had previously passed the Senate unanimously. As of right now, the transition is still scheduled for Feb. 17. Congress is scheduled to vote on the measure again sometime this week.

The transition program was stalled earlier this month when demand for the $40 coupon that Congress had been issuing to consumers to buy a digital converter box had outstripped supply. Converter boxes will allow consumers with old analog televisions to continue receiving television signals following the switch. The Nielson Co. estimates that 6.5 million households are still unprepared for the switch. President Obama had called for a delay and Democrats on Capitol Hill had supported the move.

Wireless companies, notably Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility, had paid billions of dollars for spectrum in the 700 MHz band last year in hopes of using the spectrum to build out their networks for Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. AT&T, whose LTE deployment plans are not as aggressive as Verizon's, had originally supported a delay, while Verizon opposed it. Verizon later reversed its position and said it would support a short delay as well.    

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