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House asked to power up digital TV

House lawmakers introduce a bill that would require the Federal Communications Commission to speed up the transition to digital television broadcasts.

The Federal Communications Commission would be required to accelerate the transition to digital television under a bill introduced Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The measure, called the Consumer Access to Digital Television Enhancement Act, would require the FCC to adopt a December 2002 proposal for a digital TV standard inked by dozens of cable operators and consumer electronics companies. The bill envisions a national "plug and play" standard for digital TVs that would not require set-top boxes.

The proposal, or memorandum of understanding, covers the reception of analog basic, digital basic and digital premium cable television programming in the United States. Enhanced services such as pay-per-view or video-on-demand would be included in a future specification.

"This bill provides a clear blueprint to move the television medium into the 21st century," said Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., who introduced the bill with Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va. "This flexible legislation provides a path to ensuring digital TV services for all American households."

Their legislation says the FCC will implement the proposal "within 30 days after the date of enactment of this act." It also requires that all television receivers marketed as "digital cable-ready" follow FCC regulations.

In January 2003, the FCC began the process of asking for public comment on the memorandum of understanding drawn up by cable and consumer electronics industries.

Some of the companies that have signed the proposal include Hitachi America, JVC Americas, Philips Consumer Electronics North America, Sony Electronics, Comcast Cable Communications, Cox Communications, and Time Warner Cable.

Last August, the FCC said that beginning July 1, 2004, TV sets with screen sizes of 36 inches and larger must include digital receivers.