Last week, the House voted down S. 328, which would delay the Digital Television Transition until June 13, 2009.
This bill failed to secure a 2/3 majority vote which was required since it was being considered under suspension of the rules. It failed 258-168.
As a result, the Senate passed a second bill which pretty much does the same thing as the first. But this time around, the House will be able to pass it by a simple majority instead of the 2/3rds required last time.
Here’s what this bill does:
- It postpones by about four months the date by which television stations must stop analog broadcasting and switch to digital broadcasting only. Under current law, TV stations must cease broadcasting in analog signals on February 17; the bill changes that date to June 12. It permits TV stations to halt analog broadcasting before June 12.
- The main difference in this bill as opposed to last week’s bill is that it permits fire and police first responders to immediately take over the analog broadcast spectrum abandoned by TV stations that make the transition to digital broadcasting.
- The bill also extends the period during which households can obtain coupons from the federal government to defray the cost of buying converter boxes that allow older analog television sets to receive digital signals, and permits households holding coupons that have expired to apply for new coupons.
- President Obama has called for an extension of the deadline for ending analog TV broadcasts because nearly 3 million people are currently on a waiting list for the converter box coupons, but Republicans contend that an extension would cause confusion and impose additional costs on TV stations and first responders who have been planning for the February 17 transition to digital TV.
REPUBLICAN MOTION TO COMMIT S. 352:
The motion would commit S. 352, the DTV Delay Act, to the House Committee on Energy & Commerce with instructions that the committee report the bill back to the House floor forthwith (i.e. instantaneously) with an amendment to require broadcasters occupying spectrum dedicated for first responder use (764-806 MHz) to continue with the current February 17, 2009 transition deadline.
Here’s some background on this motion:
First responders were promised a dedicated line of spectrum for their use even before the problems experienced on September 11, 2001. The 9/11 Commission endorsed legislation that would have cleared the spectrum for first responders by Dec. 31, 2006. Congress finally set a “hard date” of February 17, 2009 over three years ago. The Fraternal Order of Police opposes a delay.
ON FINAL PASSAGE OF S. 352 – THE DTV DELAY ACT: