Klobuchar Introduces Legislation to Delay DTV Transition Date

Friday, January 16th, 2009 at 6:45 am

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced legislation with Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) today to delay the upcoming digital television (DTV) transition. The delay will allow consumers to properly prepare for the transition and gives the incoming Obama Administration the time to make sure that no Americans are left behind.

“We must ensure that consumers can adequately prepare for the DTV transition. In Minnesota, more than 21 percent of our households depend exclusively on over-the-air broadcast TV. Unless we get this right, millions could be without television on February 18 – the day after the transition.

“Unfortunately, after guarantees that the Bush Administration would adequately prepare and protect consumers, only in the last few days have they revealed that funding has run out – just weeks before the plug is pulled on analog TV. While the digital TV transition should happen, this delay is necessary to make up for the lack of preparation on the part of the current Administration.”

The current DTV transition date is February 17, 2009. Klobuchar and Rockefeller’s legislation would move the date to June 12, 2009 – allowing the Obama Administration to make the necessary changes to protect consumers.

Last week, Klobuchar and Rockefeller led the way in joining President-elect Obama in calling for a delay to protect consumers. Details of the legislation are below:

A Bill to Postpone the Digital Television Transition Summary

Delay helps Americans who remain confused and unprepared – The majority of Americans are unclear about how the transition will affect them. Despite high awareness of the DTV switch, a recent Consumer Report survey found that among Americans aware of the transition, 63% had major misconceptions about what steps they need to take to prepare.

Delay reduces public safety risks – As a source of local news and information in the event of emergency or natural disaster, television serves a vital role in public safety. Consumers who do not successfully make the transition will lose access to the Emergency Alert System and AMBER Alert messages.

Delay allows federal agencies to adequately prepare – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expects to receive almost 1.5 million calls on the days immediately following the transition but at current capacity their call center will be able to process only 350,000 of those calls each day. Republican FCC Commissioner McDowell recently stated that “the Commission’s efforts to date are inadequate.”

Delay allows the Administration to fix the DTV coupon program – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has mismanaged the coupon program designed to assist consumers with the purchase of digital to analog converter boxes. Over two million households are on a waiting list to receive coupons. Even with additional resources, it may be impossible to fill the backlog of coupon orders before February 17th. Congress and the new administration need time to pursue funding solutions and improve the program to ensure consumers receive the help they need.

Delay provides the opportunity for local community coordination – The DTV transition will be different in each community in the country. Yet consumer education efforts to date have largely been national in scope. No coordinated efforts exist to help the elderly and disabled install converter boxes. The new administration needs time to develop regional approaches to help consumers.

Delay reduces safety risks – In many parts of the country the winter weather will put consumers and tower crews at risk if the transition occurs on February 17th. To maintain TV reception post-transition, many consumers may need to install roof-top antenna. Pushing back the deadline until the summer will reduce the potential for antenna-related accidents on icy winter.

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