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Sunday, January 11, 2009

FCC Warns Against Delaying Analog Shutoff

LAS VEGAS -- Postponing the turnoff of analog TV broadcasts beyond the scheduled date, Feb. 17, could confuse consumers, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission warned Saturday.

President-elect Barack Obama's transition team asked Congress on Thursday to delay the shut-off, citing the Commerce Department's running out of money for coupons that subsidize the cost of converter boxes, which allow analog TVs to receive digital signals.

FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin said at the International Consumer Electronics Show that it is important to make sure that the converter box subsidy program gets back on track, but that it does not mean delaying the analog turnoff is necessary.

"I'm concerned about a delay in the sense that if you can solve that issue other ways, a delay has actually the potential to confuse consumers," said Martin, a Republican. "All of our messaging has been about Feb. 17 -- not just ours -- the industry's."

The Feb. 17 date has been widely advertised by local TV stations.

The date of the transition and the terms of the coupon program were set by Congress. The FCC, as the broadcast regulator, has an important role in administering the transition.

Mass E-Mails by Envoys May Bring Punishment

American diplomats have been told that they may be punished for sending mass responses, after an e-mail storm nearly knocked out one of the State Department's main electronic communications systems.

A cable sent last week to all employees at the department's Washington headquarters and overseas missions warns of unspecified "disciplinary actions" for using the "reply to all" function on e-mail with large distribution lists.

The cable was prompted by a major interruption in departmental e-mail caused by numerous diplomats hitting "reply all" to an errant message inadvertently addressed and copied to several thousand recipients.

"Department staff hitting 'reply to all' on an e-mail with a large distribution list is causing an e-mail storm on the department's OpenNet e-mail system," says the unclassified cable that was sent Thursday by Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy.

He said the result was "effectively a denial of service as e-mail queues, especially between posts, back up while processing the extra volume of e-mails."

Ohio, New England Set for Snow

CLEVELAND -- Authorities from the Ohio Valley to the Northeast warned motorists to stay off roads as a weekend snowstorm moved into the region. The National Weather Service forecast as much as 10 inches of snow in parts of Ohio and Massachusetts. The Weather Service posted winter warnings and advisories from northern Illinois to New England.

-- From News Services

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