Senate Passes Digital TV Delay26 Jan, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey
The U.S. Senate Jan. 26 approved a bill that would delay the analog broadcast shutoff from Feb. 17 to June 12, giving millions of homes unprepared for the digital transition more time to prepare.
The bill, which is expected to be approved by the House later this week, does not allocate any more funding to a $40 consumer coupon program for digital converter boxes. However, it does allow people with expired coupons to get new ones.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is running the coupon program, announced earlier this month that it had run out of the $1.34 billion Congress allocated to it. President Obama has come out in support of the delay.
Peter Fannon, Panasonic technology, government and regulatory policy VP, expressed some caution over the potential delay.
“This date was set up years ago, and a lot of people have put a lot of work into this,” he said. “If they feel there’s a need for a short delay, so be it. [But] I think most observers agree that no matter what date you set, there are going to be people who are not ready.”
Fannon said there appear to be enough converter boxes for the estimated 6.5 million homes unready for the digital transition, and that companies such as Panasonic have worked hard to educate consumers about their options — if they get cable or satellite, or have a digital TV, they have nothing to worry about, but those consumers getting their TV via antennas need to buy a converter box, buy cable or satellite, or get a new TV.