Darryl Bush/AP
Comcast Cable technician Julio Rodriguez, left, explains how a new digital converter cable
works after installation.

Digital TV Switchover Delayed Until June

January 27, 2009 10:59 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The U.S. Senate voted Monday to push off the transition to all-digital broadcasts, giving the 6 million Americans who aren’t ready four more months to make the switch.

Senate Votes Unanimously for Delay

The Senate agreed unanimously in a voice vote to delay the switch from analog TV to digital from Feb. 17 to June 12.

“I firmly believe that our nation is not yet ready to make this transition at this time,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), according to the Los Angeles Times.

The DTV Delay Act was passed after overcoming Republican opposition earlier this month.

President Barack Obama had previously supported the delay, after the government ran out of funds for a program intended to provide people with coupons to buy converter boxes for their TVs.

Experts estimate that the number of Americans not yet ready for the switch is approximately 6 million, but during the debate some lawmakers argued that about 20 million poor, elderly and rural-dwelling individuals were not ready for the transition.

Background: Government runs out of digital TV converter coupons

Last year, the government was running out of money to subsidize the switch from analog to digital broadcast signals, prompting fears that millions could go without signal in February.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., asked Congress for an update on the coupon program that was helping people with their conversions. The Department of Commerce said the program was expected to hit its $1.34 billion limit at the beginning of January, Reuters reported.

“Once the obligation ceiling is reached, the program will hold coupon requests until funds from unredeemed coupons become available,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, acting assistant secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, in a Dec. 24 letter, Reuters said. The letter was addressed to Markey, who is chairman of the House’s Telecommunications and Internet subcommittee.

Markey, in a statement, said that Congress might need to act “quickly to pass additional funding for the converter box program in early January to prevent any delay in coupon availability or issuance.”

USA Today reported that the digital converter coupons can take six weeks to arrive once ordered. Up to 70 million homes have televisions that use antennaes, which won’t work without a converter box. Nationwide, there are nearly 300 million televisions in use.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration told USA Today that approximately 22 million households have asked for 41 million coupons, but of those, 14 million have been redeemed.

The necessary converter costs between $40 and $90, and the government-issued coupons offset $40 of the cost.

Are you prepared for the federally mandated shutdown of analog broadcasting?

Eighty-seven percent of TV-watching households in the United States already get their programming through cable or satellite, reports Popular Mechanics, and will not need to take any action to receive the new signals.

Digital television is supposed to offer viewers clearer pictures, better sound quality and more programming options than analog. 

Related Topic: Prisons concerned about digital TV switchover

Reference: How to recycle your old TV


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