Inouye Urges Agencies to Redouble DTV Transition Efforts

September 23, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) delivered the following statement at today’s oversight hearing on the DTV Transition.

“The DTV transition, scheduled for February 17, 2009, is now less than five months away. For the past 18 months, Members of this Committee, Democrats and Republicans, have been consistent in expressing their concern that the transition to digital television has not received enough attention or resources to ensure its success. While federal agencies and industry have stepped up their efforts, I continue to be concerned that they are not fully prepared for the flood of coupon requests and calls that we can expect just before and after the transition.

“The DTV transition is taking place for the best of public policy reasons. Once the transition is complete, we will free up needed spectrum for our emergency first responders to use in order to better serve and protect the American people. In addition, consumers will have higher quality pictures and sound, and more channels to choose from.  

“February 17 will be the 29th day of the next Administration. The DTV transition has the potential to cause serious disruption not just to consumers, but to a new President who will just be getting his feet wet. Neither a President Obama nor a President McCain should have to deal with a failed transition, so soon after coming into office.  

“I am deeply concerned that the benefits of the transition may be overshadowed by poor implementation. As the recent test in Wilmington, North Carolina, demonstrated, even with a Herculean investment of time and resources that will be impossible to replicate throughout the rest of the country, consumers made thousands of phone calls seeking help with various aspects of the transition. On a national level, this may translate to millions of calls. Unless more is done, February 17, and 18, and 19, will be very long days indeed.

“We have limited resources and limited time. What I hope to hear from our witnesses today are the creative ideas they have to overcome these limitations and their plans to address the potential flood of calls, questions, and coupon requests around the date of the transition.

“These are immediate and significant challenges, and we must find a way to overcome them. I urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to make the DTV transition a high priority and not let attention be diverted by pursuing contentious proceedings. As the current Administration winds down, both agencies must remain vigilant so that the next Administration does not inherit a communications crisis.”