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House Passes Digital TV Delay

4 Feb, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

Digital TV delay

On a second vote, the United States House of Representatives passed legislation Feb. 4 to approve delaying the nationwide digital transition from Feb. 17 to June 12, giving millions of American homes extra time to prepare for the analog switch-off, but potentially costing some millions of dollars.

President Obama, who had previously voiced support for the bill, is expected to sign it.

The idea of a delay first came about in early January, when the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced it had run through the $1.34 billion Congress gave it to administer a $40 consumer coupon program for digital converter boxes. Analog televisions still receiving broadcasts via antennas need one of the boxes when analog broadcasts are cut off, and can cost as much as $80.

Since the NTIA announcement, more than 3 million people have joined a waiting list for the coupons. The Senate passed the bill in late January.

The Nielsen Co. estimates as many as 6.5 million homes are currently unprepared for the switch.

Some businesses, including Verizon Communications and AT&T, had come out in support of a delay, while the Consumer Electronics Association had urged Congress to move forward with the current transition date.

Also Feb. 4 the NTIA appointed a new administrator, Anna Gomez, to focus on the digital television (DTV) transition.

 “With significant challenges ahead of us as the country prepares to make the switch to digital TV, it’s essential that we have leadership at NTIA that puts the American consumers first,” said NTIA associate administrator Bernadette McGuire-Rivera. “… Helping the American people through the DTV conversion is a top priority for the Obama Administration, and I am confident Anna is the right person to help the NTIA achieve this goal.”

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