The U.S. House of Representatives has passed S. 2607, the "DTV Transition Assistance Act," which the Senate passed on June 19. The bill now awaits the President's approval, and indications suggest that the President will sign the bill.
S. 2607 makes two important corrections to the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA), the Act which formalized the DTV transition. First, the bill amends section 3008 of the DRA, permitting the head of NTIA to repurpose some of the $10 million set aside to help eligible low-power television stations (mainly translator and booster stations) purchase digital-to-analog conversion equipment. If NTIA determines that the full $10 million will not be needed for this program, NTIA may use the funds for education and technical assistance efforts concerning the DTV transition and its DTV converter box coupon program. As a reminder, if an eligible LPTV station plans to seek assistance under this section, it must apply for a grant on or before February 17, 2009.
The bill also makes technical corrections to section 3009 of the DRA. As originally passed, section 3009 established a $65 million grant program to assist certain eligible LPTV stations in rural areas with their upgrade to digital-only broadcasting. The DRA provided that these funds must be paid during fiscal year 2009 but prohibited distribution of the money until October 1, 2010. Because October 1, 2010, is in fiscal year 2010, the effect of these two provisions was to render the program inoperative. S. 2607 permits NTIA to distribute the $65 million during fiscal years 2009 to 2012 and allows distribution to begin on or after February 18, 2009.