Rural, Low-Power Stations Could Get Boost with Bill

Rural television could get a digital TV boost thanks to legislation pending on Capitol Hill.

Senate leaders are working on legislation that would make funds available sooner for digital upgrades to low power TV stations and translators in rural areas. The measure was first introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said earlier this week he is throwing his support behind the bill.

Under current law, the Commerce Department is directed to make payments for the low power TV and translator upgrade program in fiscal year 2009. However, the department is not mandated to deliver reimbursement payments until after October 2010, 20 months after the nation's transition to digital TV, set for February 2009.

The delay in reimbursements could slow the analog to digital upgrades of low power TV stations and translators in rural areas. The Snowe/Stevens-sponsored bill would allow low power TV stations and translators to be reimbursed more quickly for analog-to-digital equipment upgrades.

"This bill is vital to rural parts of our nation," said Stevens. "It is important to ensure that rural America receives the same benefits of digital television as quickly as the nation's urban areas."