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To ensure access to basic broadcast television after the Digital Television Transition, and for other purposes.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
January 7, 2009
January 7, 2009
Mr. SANDERS introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
To ensure access to basic broadcast television after the Digital Television Transition, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘Digital TV Transition Fairness Act’.
SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act, the following definitions shall apply:
(1) ASSISTANT SECRETARY- The term ‘Assistant Secretary’ means the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information of the Department of Commerce.
(2) COMMISSION- The term ‘Commission’ means the Federal Communications Commission.
(3) DIGITAL-TO-ANALOG CONVERTER BOX- The term ‘digital-to-analog converter box’ has the same meaning as in section 3005(d) of the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005.
(4) LOCAL MARKET- The term ‘local market’ has the same meaning as in section 122(j) of title 17, United States Code.
(5) MULTICHANNEL VIDEO PROGRAMMING DISTRIBUTOR- The term ‘multichannel video programming distributor’ has the same meaning as in section 602(13) of the Communications Act of 1934.
(6) TELEVISION BROADCAST STATION- The term ‘television broadcast station’ has the same meaning as in section 325(b)(7) of the Communications Act of 1934.
SEC. 3. DIGITAL VIEWERSHIP COUPON PROGRAM.
(a) Creation of Program- The Assistant Secretary, in coordination and consultation with the Commission, shall implement and administer a program through which households or individuals in the United States may obtain coupons that can be applied toward--
(1) the cost to install a digital-to-analog converter box;
(2) the purchase of an indoor or outdoor antenna, or both if needed, to facilitate the reception and display of signals of channels broadcast in digital television service;
(3) the cost to install any antenna described in paragraph (2); and
(4) the cost to install, or the cost of any other equipment needed to receive and display, basic broadcast television service, as such service is described in section 4.
(b) Program Specifications-
(A) HOUSEHOLD OR INDIVIDUAL- Any household or individual that was or is eligible for a digital-to-analog converter box coupon under the coupon program established under section 3005 of the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 shall be eligible to receive a coupon under the coupon program established under this section.
(B) PRODUCT ELIGIBILITY- The Assistant Secretary, in consultation with the Commission, shall determine minimum standards for which types of antennas, installation providers, and other companies are eligible to participate in the coupon program established under this section. Such minimum standards shall be established not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act.
(C) LIMITATION- No household or individual may be eligible to participate in the coupon program established under this section if--
(i) on the date of enactment of this Act, the household or individual was receiving broadcast television that it had purchased from a multichannel video programming distributor; or
(ii) after the date of enactment of this Act, the household or individual purchases television broadcasts, other than basic broadcast television service described in section 4, from a multichannel video programming distributor.
(2) REQUEST- A household or individual may obtain coupons under this section by making a request as required by the regulations implementing this section.
(3) COUPON VALUE- The Assistant Secretary shall determine the value of any coupons issued under this section, provided that the value of any single coupon does not exceed $80. In making the determination of the value of any single coupon, the Assistant Secretary shall consider the purpose for which the requesting household or individual is requesting the coupon and the types of costs to which the coupon will be applied.
(4) DURATION- All coupons issued under this section shall expire upon the later of the date of termination of the program established under this section or 90 days.
(5) TERMINATION- The program established under this section shall terminate on the date that is 18 months after the date on which the first coupon under this section is issued.
(c) Consumer Education- The Assistant Secretary shall develop, in consultation with the Commission and broadcast and television industry representatives, an Internet website and a toll-free telephone hotline accessible to consumers that have degraded or lost signals or channels as a result of the full power transition from analog to digital television that is to occur on February 17, 2009. The website and telephone hotline shall provide relevant information in order to assist consumers in determining--
(1) if the purchase or installation of an outdoor or indoor antenna will assist the consumer in resolving or improving their digital television reception problems; and
(2) what options are available to them should they find that purchasing an outdoor or indoor antenna will not assist in resolving or improving their digital television reception.
(d) Anti-Fraud Protections- The Assistant Secretary shall develop, in consultation with the Commission, anti-fraud measures and procedures to ensure that only eligible households and individuals receive a coupon issued under this section.
(e) Reporting Requirement-
(1) IN GENERAL- Not later than 1 month after the date of enactment of this Act, and every 7 days thereafter, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration shall make publicly available on its website the--
(A) number of requests for coupons under this section;
(B) number of coupons issued under this section;
(C) amount of each coupon issued, including the total amount of all such issued coupons;
(D) types of costs to which each such issued coupon will be applied, as such costs are self-reported on the application of each household or individual;
(E) number of issued coupons that have been redeemed; and
(F) amount of unobligated and unexpended funds that remain from the amounts authorized under section 6.
(2) TERMINATION- The requirement described under paragraph (1) shall terminate 3-months after the last coupon under this section is issued.
SEC. 4. BASIC BROADCAST TELEVISION SERVICE.
(1) IN GENERAL- The Commission shall promulgate rules requiring that each multichannel video programming distributor, who provides broadcast television for a local market, provide to eligible consumers in that local market access to basic broadcast television service, as such service is described in subsection (b).
(2) SAFE HARBOR-
(A) IN GENERAL- The retransmission or secondary transmission of any televison broadcast station by a multichannel video programming distributor pursuant to paragraph (1) shall not be subject to any prohibitions on such activities as described under sections 325 and 338 of the Communications Act of 1934 or under section 122 of title 17, United States Code, and any such distributor shall be immune from any civil liability related to fulfilling the requirements under paragraph (1).
(B) FEE EXEMPTION- In promulgating rules under paragraph (1), the Commission shall require that each television broadcast station--
(i) grant consent to multichannel video programming distributors to retransmit the signal of such broadcasting station only for the purposes of fulfilling the requirements under paragraph (1); and
(ii) waive any fees or charges that are customarily or usually applied for the grant of such consent.
(b) Basic Broadcast Television Service- Any rule promulgated under subsection (a) relating to the definition of basic broadcast television service shall ensure that, at a minimum, such service includes the transmission, retransmission, or secondary transmission of the over-the-air signal of any nonsubscription television broadcast station located within the local market.
(c) Eligible Consumers-
(1) IN GENERAL- For purposes of this section, an ‘eligible consumer’ is a consumer--
(A) whose primary residence is located in a local market where at least 1 television broadcast station has certified to the Commission that channel signal loss has occurred as a result of the transition from analog to digital television that is to occur on February 17, 2009; and
(B) who does not currently subscribe to a multichannel video programming service at his or her primary residence.
(2) LOSS OF ELIGIBILITY; PURCHASE OF ADDITIONAL SERVICE- If at any time after purchasing basic broadcast television service pursuant to this section, an eligible consumer purchases any additional channel service from a multichannel video programming distributor, such consumer shall no longer be eligible to purchase such basic broadcast television service.
(d) Additional Cost Requirements- In promulgating rules under subsection (a), the Commission shall ensure that--
(1) the cost to purchase basic broadcast television service does not exceed $10 per month, except that such maximum monthly fee shall be adjusted annually in accordance with the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor in increments of $1 only when the percentage increase in such index, when applied to the maximum monthly fee, produces dollar increases that exceed $1; and
(2) a multichannel video programming distributor providing such basic broadcast service may not charge installation costs for such service that are in excess of the regular market rate charged to normal non-basic broadcast television service customers who purchase installation for any other services provided by the multichannel video programming distributor.
(e) Anti-Fraud Protections- The Commission shall develop anti-fraud measures and procedures to ensure that only eligible consumers are provided access to basic broadcast television service under the terms of this section.
(f) Report to Congress- Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, and every 12 months thereafter, the Commission shall submit a report to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives on--
(1) the number of eligible consumers who have purchased basic broadcast television service;
(2) the problems encountered by eligible consumers, multichannel video programming distributors, television broadcasters, or the Commission in adhering to or implementing the requirements of this section; and
(3) any other information the Commission determines appropriate.
(g) Public Availability- The Commission shall make any report required under subsection (e) available to the public on its website in a searchable and downloadable manner.
(h) Termination Only by Act of Congress- This section may be limited, canceled, terminated, or rescinded only by an Act of Congress.
SEC. 5. OUTREACH CAMPAIGN.
(a) In General- The Commission, in consultation and coordination with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Administrator of the Administration on Aging, the heads of any other relevant Federal agency, State and local agencies, the broadcast, cable, satellite, and other telecommunications industries, and nonprofit, religious, community-based, and other similar organizations, shall carry out an education and outreach campaign to inform and educate consumers on the availability, benefits, and advantages of the programs and requirements established under this Act.
(b) Requirements- The education and outreach campaign required under subsection (a) shall, at a minimum--
(1) begin immediately upon the date of enactment of this Act;
(2) involve dissemination of information over radio, television, the Internet, and other electronic media, as well other traditional nonelectronic media;
(3) require that each agency described in subsection (a) maintain information relating to the programs and requirements established under this Act on the website of such agency; and
(4) require efforts to inform and educate all relevant consumers, in particular those consumers--
(A) in vulnerable populations such as--
(i) senior citizens;
(ii) consumers living in rural and tribal areas;
(iii) non-English speaking consumers;
(iv) consumers with disabilities; and
(v) low-income consumers; and
(B) located in a local market where channel signal loss as a result of the full power transition from analog to digital television that is to occur on February 17, 2009, is likely or predicted to be likely.
(c) Provision of Funds- The Commission may distribute funds to nonprofit, religious, community-based, and other similar organizations to assist with the education and outreach campaign required under this section.
(d) Website- Each Federal agency participating in the education and outreach campaign required under this section shall work to ensure the existence and operation of a single website accessible by the public that shall serve as the clearinghouse for all information relating to this Act and the programs established by this Act.
SEC. 6. FUNDING.
(a) Authorization of Appropriations- There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act $700,000,000 for fiscal years 2009 and 2010, of which--
(1) $600,000,000 shall be made available to the Assistant Secretary to carry out the digital viewership coupon program established under section 3; and
(2) $100,000,000 shall be made available to the Commission to carry out the requirements of sections 4 and 5.
(b) Transfer of Funds in the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Fund- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any funds remaining in the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Fund established under section 309(j)(8)(E) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 309(j)(8)(E)) shall, upon the expiration of the digital-to-analog converter box program established under section 3005 of the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005, be used to cary out the provisions of this Act.