The DTV delay: Would this be the last?

How much could you accomplish in 115 days? The DTV Delay Act, provisionally delaying the switchover to DTV, appears to have overcome GOP objections and is moving toward a full Senate vote sometime next week. The Act would push mandatory rollover back to June 12.

Reports state that Senate Republicans were concerned that television stations ready and eager to switch would be forced to delay their move; the revised Act says they're free to make the hop as they see fit, and the feds can thereupon take up the unused and discarded spectrum for public-safety communications, as has been the plan all along.

The coupon program will be extended to July 31, and customers whose coupons expired before they could be used will be allowed to get fresh coupons. The Act extends FCC auction authority to pay for the costs of the delay.

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Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) worked together to whip the legislation into bipartisan-friendly shape. Rockefeller has been an outspoken critic of the timing and details of the changeover for years now; as the current chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, he's gone from being one of three lonely votes against changeover-related issues to leading the pack on how to make it right.

Happily, he thinks that delaying until June should just about cover things. In a statement on his Senate web site, Rockefeller wrote, "The DTV Delay Act will not fix all of the problems associated with the transition. More work needs to be done to ensure that consumers are aware of the transition and get the help they need. But it gives us all the time to do the transition right.... Barring unforeseen emergencies, we should not have another delay."

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