Congress Could Delay Digital Tv Transition

01.16.09 | FL News Team

The soon to be chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is proposing a delay in the transition to digital TV. Senator Jay Rockefeller of Virginia proposed legislation Thursday that would push the scheduled February 17th switch back to June 12th.

The delay would give TV owners who aren't connected to satellite or cable and who haven't gotten a converter box some extra time to prepare. While broadcasters are ready, even eager to make the switch and the Consumer Electronics Association thinks a delay would cause more confusion, President-elect Barack Obama, the Consumers Union, AARP and even AT&T back the delay.

Congress approved the switch from bandwidth hogging analog TV signals to more thrifty digital signals in 2005. In spite of more than four years warning and a year of being bombarded by local TV stations with details of the switch, some owners of the estimated 20-million existing TV receivers not connected to a digital source aren't ready.

Adding to the problem the government set aside more than one-and-a-quarter-billion dollars to help offset the cost of converter boxes. It ended up not being enough either because many Americans applied for more coupons than they really needed, two per household were allowed, or because Congress underestimated the demand.

The fund ran out of money two weeks ago. Once the cash ran out applicants were put on a waiting list. As of Thursday, "USA Today" says about two-point-one-million people were on that list, a twentyfold increase from just two weeks ago. Whenever the change is made, the FCC says it's expecting to field two-million phone calls from people wondering where their analog TV signal has gone.