Markey presses for DTV update


Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Chair Ed Markey (D-MA) has fired off letters to FCC’s Kevin Martin and NTIA’s Meredith Attwell-Baker requesting a briefing on the state of affairs with the DTV transition and the converter box coupon program.

“With less than two months until the deadline, we need to make sure the nation is on track for a successful transition,” said Markey. “I remain concerned that a high demand for coupons, consumer confusion, and lack of converter box availability and call center capability may jeopardize success. The FCC and NTIA are tasked with ensuring that the public is fully aware of how to receive the new digital signal. Today I am requesting prompt answers from these agencies about their readiness and their latest projections on consumer demand and the need for additional efforts.”

Meanwhile, Nielsen reports that 6.8% of all US television households are completely DTV unready, down from November’s 7.4% tally. However, if you exclude Hispanic households, only 6.2% are unready. There is still some heavy lifting to do among Hispanic households, 11.5% are totally unready. 10% of all US households are partially unready.

One public interest organization working to bring minority households up to speed, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, is mounting a campaign suggesting that converter boxes would make a perfect holiday gift for an analog only off air household.

Finally, the Consumers Union is concerned that many citizens will be left behind because they obtained a converter box coupon at a time when low-price units were unavailable in their area, that the coupon has now expired, and that they are ineligible to reapply. It is glad the Obama administrating has pledged to make the DTV transition a priority, but wonders how much it will be able to accomplish with less than a month from Inauguration Day to the DTV deadline.

RBR/TVBR observation: With the billions of dollars flying around chasing after the financial crisis, you’d think Congress could break off a tiny chunk and set up an emergency phone center to handle the many calls that will be coming in during the early days of the transition.