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Senate grants Obama's wish to delay the digital transition, House votes on bill soon

TV viewers have been inundated with service announcements and coverage of the digital transition from analog to all digital TV broadcasts that is set to happen next month. Viewers who were using older TVs and don't get a converter or subscribe to pay-TV will lose the ability to watch free broadcast stations after the transition.

One of the first things that president Obama asked was to delay the digital transition to give Americans who weren't prepared more time to get ready. The government has been running a coupon program that gives people who need a converter box coupon to help pay for the cost of getting the needed converter.

The Senate drafted a bill last week that outlined a method for delaying the digital transition from February 17 to June 12 of 2009 to give viewers an extra four months to get a converter or subscribe to pat TV services.

MSNBC reports that the Senate has unanimously approved the bill to delay the transition to the June 12 date that the Obama administration wants. The delay is seen as a victory for the Obama administration and for Democrats in Congress who have been lobbying for a delay in the transition date.

The Nielsen Company performed a survey that found 6.5 million homes in America were unprepared for the digital transition and would lose the ability to watch TV after the transition. Funds in government coffers to help offset the cost of the converters for Americans dried up this month despite a long backlist of requests for the coupons.

Additional funds for the program are only being added as coupons that were requested and then not used expire after the 90-day usage window originally granted. The bill that was approved by the Senate will let those who asked for coupons and then didn’t use them apply for a new coupon. MSNBC reports that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is administering the coupon program, had 2.6 million coupon requests on its waiting list as of last week.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller said, "Delaying the upcoming DTV switch is the right thing to do. I firmly believe that our nation is not yet ready to make this transition at this time."

VP of the digital TV transition for the National Association of Broadcasters Jonathan Collegio says that the numbers cited by Nielsen may overstate the number of people not ready for the digital transition. Collegio says that the numbers exclude consumers who have purchased a converter box, but not installed it as well as those who have requested a coupon and not received it.

Gene Kimmelman from the Consumers Union says, "The government has failed to deliver the converter boxes these [elderly and low-income] people deserve just to keep watching free, over-the-air broadcast signals."

Republicans in both the House and Senate are concerned that a delay in the transition will do nothing but confuse consumers and cost broadcasters money. Paula Kerger from the Public Broadcasting Service claims that delaying the digital transition from February to June 12 could cost public broadcasters $22 million.

Part of the wording in the Senate approved bill will let broadcasters who have already purchased the needed equipment for digital broadcasts to transition to all digital in February, even if the House votes to approve the delay in the transition. The House is expected to vote on the bill next week.

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Damn shame
By Brandon Hill on 1/27/2009 9:51:24 AM , Rating: 5
This is a damn shame... delaying because of 6.5 million households?

**Shakes head in disgust**

GET ON WITH IT!! Cut them off on February 17 -- when they realize they don't have TV, these people will find a way to make it work (either by paying for the box themselves, or getting a family member to hook them up). Nothing kicks people into gear faster than losing something they (likely) treasure.

RE: Damn shame
By kattanna on 1/27/2009 9:57:19 AM , Rating: 5
it would be interesting to know, of those supposed 6.5 million people polled, did they think they needed a new HD tv or simply a digital convertor box. because i still know many people who are claiming this conversion is to ALL HD, not merely an analog to digital thing.

RE: Damn shame
By omnicronx on 1/27/2009 11:14:06 AM , Rating: 5
What would be more interesting is to know of those 6.5 million, how many have HDTV's with internal DTV tuners and still think they need a box. You can't buy a TV today without one , and I think it has been mandated since 2006.

RE: Damn shame
By StevoLincolnite on 1/27/2009 11:46:53 AM , Rating: 2
Well he Price of Digital Set-top boxes are pretty cheap these days (In Australia anyway), I can pick up a cheap one here for the price of a cheap DVD player, it might only be an SD box, but that's all that most people require for there CRT Television sets anyway.

I'm ready for the switch over, I Threw away all my CRT Televisions during Christmas so I now have a 52" LCD in the Lounge room, and a 32" LCD in the bedroom for just the Xbox and DVD/Blue-ray, and a 26" LCD in the Shed so I can watch stuff while I'm mucking around.

To be honest I actually never saw a HDTV broadcast in my life till I got the 52" LCD, I was amazed at the clarity and colour, and went off and replaced all my other Television sets, Even Xbox 360 games saw a massive improvement!

RE: Damn shame
By Jimbo1234 on 1/27/2009 2:05:37 PM , Rating: 1
" might only be an SD box, but that's all that most people require for there [sic] CRT Television sets anyway."


My oldest TV is a 32" Toshiba CRT that is HD without a tuner. It's called an HDTV monitor. I was well aware of that fact, and since I have DirecTV HD, it's a non issue.

RE: Damn shame
By omnicronx on 1/27/2009 2:12:56 PM , Rating: 4
quote: might only be an SD box, but that's all that most people require for there [sic] CRT Television sets anyway.
Thats exactly what he said.. the 50$ converter boxes in question will only convert digital broadcasts to analogue, presumably via rca or coax cable. You happen to be part of the small minority (i.e you are not in the most category) that can use a DTV/DTV HD converter box with your CRT set.

RE: Damn shame
By bkiserx7 on 1/27/2009 11:34:55 PM , Rating: 2
How bout all the stations switch and broadcast 1 analog channel that only displays a number to call for you FREE CONVERTER BOX; like: 1-800-BROKE-TV or 1-800-PROCRASTINATE

RE: Damn shame
By tastyratz on 1/27/2009 11:54:55 AM , Rating: 5
Those numbers HAVE to be artificially inflated. I am sure these people were not properly educated first, and its staggering the number of people WITH cable... WATCHING the commercials from the cable company saying they don't need one... who STILL think they have to get a box or a new tv.

"Hello, we need to know if you ever watch or might ever want to watch tv using rabbit ears"

"why is that"

"Because the government knows the economy isn't doing well right now, and we would like to give you 2 $50 coupons to get something for nothing"

"something free? Yea I need one"

"dear god we need more money, it seems people have an interest in free coupons"


and so is the reason why ebay has hundreds of converter box auctions at any point... most of which not listings by a legitimate business or authorized reseller.

RE: Damn shame
By daar on 1/27/2009 1:14:32 PM , Rating: 5
Perhaps if it wasn't delayed, we'd soon see a headline along the lines of:

Breaking news: American illiteracy rates drop to record low numbers!

RE: Damn shame
By Goty on 1/27/2009 9:58:17 AM , Rating: 3

Now, I wonder what congress, in their infinite wisdom, is going to do for the companies that bought the bands covered by analog TV that were expecting to have access to those frequencies four months earlier?

RE: Damn shame
By Moishe on 1/27/2009 10:11:22 AM , Rating: 5
"infinite wisdom" :)

Congress is doing what they do... pandering to idiots. The lowest bit is who dictates the actions in our government.


RE: Damn shame
By CurtOien on 1/27/2009 9:58:52 AM , Rating: 5
I will bet that no matter how long this is delayed that many of these same people still won't be ready.

RE: Damn shame
By JAB on 1/27/2009 10:04:04 AM , Rating: 3
True sorry but some people just dont care. The horror no TV until you go to the store and buy a box. What did we do before it.

RE: Damn shame
By Screwballl on 1/27/2009 1:53:35 PM , Rating: 2
I deal with a lot of people in rural areas and many of them think that they need one of these new-fangled flat screen TVs (LCD, plasma) that cost $2000 or more... even though it does not relate to my job, I still mention that the converter boxes are only $50 at WalMart that will take care of everything.

RE: Damn shame
By tallcool1 on 1/27/2009 2:42:29 PM , Rating: 2
I will bet that no matter how long this is delayed that many of these same people still won't be ready.
Agreed, lets move on with life already!

RE: Damn shame
By wrekd on 1/27/2009 10:07:53 AM , Rating: 2
While I agree with you, perhaps this is not such a bad idea. My family is getting ready to just shut TV off all together. What we want to see we can get on Hulu or at the network sites themselves.

So what is my family waiting for? Warmer weather. I have 3 kids 6, 3, and 2 who do like to watch Noggin. Too much so, and that is why we are shutting it off. I'm just not going to shut of the TV in January. For my family, I think it is best to wait until spring when I can kick their little butts out into the yard.

I can't believe they picked February anyways. Many network shows are just getting going, and well, it's cold as hell outside.

On the other hand, we do need another broadband option soon.

RE: Damn shame
By Cobra Commander on 1/27/2009 1:44:08 PM , Rating: 2
They picked mid-February for two words:

Super Bowl

RE: Damn shame
By theapparition on 1/27/2009 10:11:38 AM , Rating: 2
While I'm with you, and see absolutely no need to delay the transition, it needs to be noted that the delay is optional. Broadcasters can choose to transition on Feb 17th, just as they planned to. There is no requirement in this bill that mandates that they must keep thier old analog signals running.

Several stations in my area are choosing to do just that. Make the switch and shut off the analog channels anyway.

The decision to make the switch is now resting with the broadcasters.

However, after the delay, I still predict that 6.5 million households will be unprepared for the transition, which would mean this delay did nothing but cost broadcasters time and money, and also cost emergency management services (who need the freed up bandwith) both time and money. Stupidity at its finest.

RE: Damn shame
By acase on 1/27/2009 10:18:05 AM , Rating: 3
I predict at least 2 million will turn on their TV's and realize it was good they were lazy pieces of s***, because they didn't need the stupid box like they though they would anyways.

RE: Damn shame
By PrinceGaz on 1/27/2009 7:41:22 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, and because of that they will do nothing, and in June when the next switch-over is planned, they'll do exactly the same thing and either have no picture or complain because their TV has stopped working.

It doesn't matter how long it is delayed, there will still be a large number who haven't bothered to do anything, not even get a coupon for a free STB (even if additional funds are freed up for coupons for all those who want one).

Each delay makes it less likely that those who haven't switched already, will switch before the next date.

RE: Damn shame
By Spivonious on 1/27/2009 11:55:03 AM , Rating: 2
Interesting. I imagine most TV stations will go ahead with the switch anyway, since they've been planning for it for years now.

In effect then, all this bill does is give out more coupons.

RE: Damn shame
By Hiawa23 on 1/27/2009 10:13:41 AM , Rating: 2
I honestly don't get this. Why delay for only so few, & to be honest with you I really didn't think there were that many still only using rabbit ears. I guess this doesn't affect me since I have cable but for those that this does affect who may not have the converters I guess this is good news. I just don't get why the government has to be responsible for the 6.5million free viewers.

RE: Damn shame
By mindless1 on 1/27/2009 10:52:21 AM , Rating: 2
In many cases, those using rabbit ears are the elderly, people not as into tech and information age things that we at Dailytech are.

Many of them have healthcare costs we couldn't imagine, fixed incomes, and mental degradation associated with aging. Many can't even get up and do much besides watch TV. These elderly people contributed to society their entire lives (in most cases), built the US into what it is now. We should give them patience and respect, not leave them staring at a wall when the gov. cuts off their TV.

The question isn't one of why the gov. has to be responsible, it's about reasonable reasons why they wouldn't be. Stations can cease broadcasting if they choose, and most (if not all?) are already broadcasting digitally.

This change in date will have minimal if any negative effect on the majority and a positive one on the minority.

RE: Damn shame
By omnicronx on 1/27/2009 1:49:19 PM , Rating: 3
In many cases, those using rabbit ears are the elderly, people not as into tech and information age things that we at Dailytech are.
Or anyone that does not have cable wired through their entire house... Unless your house was built within the last 10-15 years, or you did it yourself, chances are its not.

My family has digital cable, yet two of our TV's upstairs still make use of analog OTA broadcasts.

RE: Damn shame
By coolkev99 on 1/27/2009 11:11:24 AM , Rating: 2
Rabbit ears has nothing to do with it. You can pick up digital HD (or non-HD) broadcasts with 30 year old rabbit ears (I do it on my HDTV). You don't need cable, you don't need satellite. The issue is the tuner, it must be digital to make sense of the signal, hence why people need these boxes (tuners) to see the new broadcasts.

Secondly, I will agree, the deadline was reasonable, I've known about this transition for over two years now, possibly 3. You'll never have everyone converted over come time for transition date. This is a waste of time. Just switch, these "poor old people" will just have to do what it takes (by asking someone, or doing themselves) to get the converters. They will survive.

RE: Damn shame
By strikeback03 on 1/27/2009 11:52:21 AM , Rating: 2
I remember reading an article back in the late 90s saying that Congress had mandated analog be shut off sometime in 2006. This has been going on forever.

I wonder if anyone had anything ready to roll out in that band which will now be delayed.

RE: Damn shame
By lotharamious on 1/27/2009 6:19:34 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, I remember writing a paper in high school about (at the time) the switch over date being sometime in May of 2006.

RE: Damn shame
By Jimbo1234 on 1/27/2009 2:11:10 PM , Rating: 2
Rabbit ears has nothing to do with it. You can pick up digital HD (or non-HD) broadcasts with 30 year old rabbit ears (I do it on my HDTV)

I use extra speaker wire, or just cut about a 6" long section of shielding off a foot or two of RG6. It works just as well as the gigantic Terk in the attic.

RE: Damn shame
By Amiga500 on 1/27/2009 10:18:12 AM , Rating: 2
About 6% of the total no. of households?

Well... if the converters are/were being handed out for next to nothing I agree, however, if they cost a decent whack, I do not (especially right now).

RE: Damn shame
By Brandon Hill on 1/27/2009 10:20:09 AM , Rating: 2
They cost $50 a Best Buy

RE: Damn shame
By energy1man on 1/27/2009 10:59:55 AM , Rating: 2
Probably cost a lot less without the government coupon supporting the price.

RE: Damn shame
By Amiga500 on 1/27/2009 11:05:44 AM , Rating: 2
I assume you mean with the govt. supporting the price.

Depending on circumstance, $50 can be a decent bit of money - I'd imagine spent wisely it would go a fair way to feeding a family for half a week, maybe more.

RE: Damn shame
By energy1man on 1/27/2009 11:35:01 AM , Rating: 2
Currently if I have a coupon I can go into Best Buy and for $10 out of my pocket, $40 out of the govt. get a converter box. If there were no govt coupons, Best Buy or whoever, could probably sell the converters for less than $50, maybe $25 or $30. I just think retailers have no reason to sell them for less, with the current setup.

RE: Damn shame
By Amiga500 on 1/27/2009 12:53:04 PM , Rating: 2
Ahh, $10 is pretty much nothing.

You have a house - you can find $10 somewhere.

I now see what you mean - you reckon the stores are marking the product up because the govt are paying for most of it.

RE: Damn shame
By psychobriggsy on 1/27/2009 1:57:55 PM , Rating: 2

In the UK standalone Freeview (DVB, not ATSC) receivers cost from under £20, and these support all of the digital interactive features (digital text, embedded video streams, etc) as well as the 7-day electronic programme guide as well as basic Now and Next.

The hardware on its own is probably $5. Wrap a case around it, add an RF out, add an s-video out, add the aerial in, and you have a box. $50, thanks government.

I will complain about the glacial switchover in the UK though. We've had digital TV for YEARS now, and our switchover won't be complete until 2012! FFS just switch over en-mass, put instructions and a phone number on the current channels for a month for the few remaining holdouts, and call it a done deal.

Another issue in the UK is that some broadcasters want to switch to H.264 from MPEG2 to double the number of digital Freeview channels (to 60), or allow HD channels. It looks likely that one transponder will be set aside for this after digital switchover. Hurrah. Over the air HD in 2012, and nobodies hardware will support it because of the H.264. Brilliant.

RE: Damn shame
By omnicronx on 1/27/2009 11:17:53 AM , Rating: 2
Per TV... I wonder how many people think they only need one box.

RE: Damn shame
By mindless1 on 1/27/2009 10:28:59 AM , Rating: 2
Why is it such a shame? The space was already auctioned off, so that's not delayed. Stations are already broadcasting digitally, in our area we anticipate zero addt'l channels after Feb.127th.

All it's doing is delaying reuse of that analog spectrum for something else, at a time when I hear nothing particular about new uses that will be important (they still need time to develop and plan it).

While I don't think we should've delayed the shutoff, it doesn't seem to be a significant problem either since broadcasters still have the option to do it as scheduled.

RE: Damn shame
By TomZ on 1/27/2009 10:59:56 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly. In addition, the delay is necessary because of the government's own incompetence, e.g., running out of converter coupons in the final months before the transition date.

I also think they should have started to get the word out earlier. Most of the TV ads I saw for the transition ran in the latter half of 2008. I was personally aware of the transition earlier, but let's face it, not every American citizen reads DT.

RE: Damn shame
By Suntan on 1/27/2009 12:29:05 PM , Rating: 2
Most of the TV ads I saw for the transition ran in the latter half of 2008.

Even if it wasn't public knowledge far earlier than that, just how many *months* does the average person need to make that trip to Best Buy?


RE: Damn shame
By TomZ on 1/27/2009 1:03:04 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, and the reality is that a lot of households will only be motivated when their TVs go to static.

RE: Damn shame
By Jimbo1234 on 1/27/2009 2:13:27 PM , Rating: 2
I thought February was the shortest month.

RE: Damn shame
By Dharl on 1/27/2009 11:06:06 AM , Rating: 2
Politics it's always freaking politics.

Just trying to save face with the 2% who could possibly lose OTA TV. Sickening, I wonder if it will be delayed again in June... I gurantee you no matter who would have won the election this change would have occurred as a political move.

Get it over with, when their TV goes blank they'll figure it out and shell out the $50 needed to get it back.

RE: Damn shame
By Machinegear on 1/27/2009 12:27:59 PM , Rating: 2
TV is how politicians get their 'message' out. Any possible decrease in TV viewership is simply not worth the better picture to a sly public servant. If you think, or even care to argue the point, that politicians are thinking of the best interests of 6.5 million households is the true reason for the DTV delay you need your head examined. Politicians will flip the DTV switch when it is best for them to do so and not a day sooner.

RE: Damn shame
By UsernameX on 1/27/2009 3:06:10 PM , Rating: 2
Honestly this is a damn shame. Not only for the reasons stated above, but people need to watch less TV as it is anyways. Get out, get some fresh air, read a book, something more interactive. This digital transition should have happened last year, ffs.

RE: Damn shame
By Dreifort on 1/27/2009 3:26:48 PM , Rating: 2
my local cable company already made the switch...


haha. I know this is CABLE and not OTA, but they dropped all their analog channels and required all their customers to use a new digital tuner box (free upon request).

RE: Damn shame
By skaaman on 1/28/2009 1:59:15 PM , Rating: 2
Why the angst... The bill clearly allows broadcasters who are ready to make the switch in Feb. So they extend analog to be allowed for 5 months. God forbid they err on the side of caution. Big deal. People who aren't so quick on the upside start to notice Judge Judy is missing and go get there little converter boxes. If they haven't figured it out by June, oh well...

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