Print 82 comment(s) - last by mindless1.. on Jan 29 at 11:06 PM

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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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.

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