FCC Acting Chairman Michael Copps is very unhappy with the Bush Administration’s handling of the digital TV transition and he’s making no bones about it.
“I’ve never sugar-coated my concerns,” Copps told the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee on Friday. “The next few weeks are going to be extremely difficult – as difficult as any that this commission, and millions of TV consumers, has ever faced. That’s because we never really dug deep enough to understand all the consequences that would attend the DTV transition – not just the intended good results, but all the unintended consequences, too, the ones that usually cause the big problems. It’s because we didn’t have a well thought-out and coherent and coordinated plan to ease the transition – a plan to combine the resources we needed to avoid disruption.”
And for anyone hoping the looming transition might not be so bad – well, Copps was quick to quell any high hopes. Ever since President Obama asked Copps to fill in until a permanent chair is named, Copps has investigated the hows and whys of the DTV handover.
“Unfortunately, things don’t look any better now that I’ve had a chance to look under the hood,” Copps said. “If anything, they look worse. At this point, we will not have – we cannot have – a seamless DTV transition.”
But wait, there’s more.
“There is no way to do in the 26 days new leadership has had here what we should have been laser-focused on for 26 months,” Copps explained. “That time is lost – and it’s lost at a cost. We cannot make it up. There is consumer disruption down the road we’ve been on. We need to realize this. We need to plan for it. And we need to do whatever we can to minimize it and then to repair it. This has been the focus of my one week and one day running this place.”
Help might come in the form of a deadline delay, but Congressional lawmakers first have to get on the same page. The Senate twice has approved a one-time extension to June 12, but the House so far has refused to do the same. There is a chance House representatives this week will vote again on the matter; if that happens, telecom industry observers expect the bill to pass.