The House voted today to postpone requiring television broadcasters to broadcast all-digital signals. Those who are receiving analog over-the-air broadcasts and have not yet purchased digital converter boxes will have until June 12th to make the purchase, once President Obama signs the legislation. The House voted 264 to 158 in favor of the delay. The Senate voted to delay the transition last month.
The bill extends the digital converter box coupon program until July 31, 2009 and consumers may exchange expired coupons that have not been redeemed. However, the legislation still did not name a source of funding for the extension of the program.
The bill also permits broadcasters to stop broadcasting analog signals and to switch over to all-digital broadcasts prior to June 12, 2009. Meanwhile, public safety agencies will be able to begin using spectrum vacated by broadcasters.
"The country is not prepared to undertake a nationwide transition in twelve days without unacceptably high consumer dislocation," FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said in a statement. "The additional four months provided by the law affords urgently needed time for a more phased transition, including a consumer-friendly converter box coupon program, stepped-up consumer outreach and support--particularly for vulnerable populations--and dealing with coverage, antenna and reception issues that went too long unaddressed."
"I know we will do all that we can to minimize the inevitable disruption and confusion this transition will cause," FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell said. "In the meantime... if you need a converter box, get it today and hook it up today and start enjoying the benefits of digital television today."
An estimated 6.5 million households do not own televisions capable of recieving digital signals according to the Nielsen Company.