Moving DTV Deadline a Bad Idea, Says FCC's Martin

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Moving the February 17 deadline for the U.S. switchover to digital TV would create confusion, said Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin during a public interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Martin would prefer if Congress sticks to the planned date, and instead makes some changes to help speed up the transition.

"I completely think we need to do something about the converter box coupon program, and quickly," Martin said of a government program to help consumers buy a gadget that allows older TVs to receive digital broadcasts. There is variety of things that Congress could do to make the program more convenient, including waiving the 90-day expiration date, according to Martin.

Martin is worried about the ramifications of moving the date, saying his big concern is that people won't take a new deadline seriously.

Moving the date would also stymie plans to use the newly freed frequencies for other services.

"We have other people who are anxious to start building out their wireless networks," Martin said

Martin's term as commissioner runs until 2011 but he is expected to be replaced as chairman of the FCC when the Obama administration takes office January 20. In December a congressional report accused him of suppressing public information and abusing his power. Saturday, he expressed a wish that people could "actually meet and discuss and have a debate without it having to be an open meeting". At the same time, he wants commissioners to disclose how they voted on different issues and why.

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