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Congress Passes Bill to Delay Digital TV Conversion

Friday, February 6th, 2009 at 10:02 am

Washington DC – Thousands of Minnesota residents who aren’t ready for the conversion to digital television were handed a reprieve today. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to extend the date TV stations will be required to start broadcasting with new digital technology from February 17, 2009 to June 15, 2009. “The television stations are ready to make this switch, but not all of their viewers are set up to receive the new digital signal,” said Congressman Jim Oberstar.

When TV stations begin digital transmissions, many older television sets will not work unless they are equipped with digital converter boxes. However, a government coupon program to help consumers purchase converters has run out of funding, leaving nearly 40,000 Minnesotans on a waiting list. “I have 4,700 constituents who are waiting for coupons to purchase these converter boxes,” said Oberstar. “Many of the people on the list are elderly or from low income families and the cost of a $40 converter box or a new television set is a real burden. This legislation helps us keep TV free for everyone.”

An additional $650 million to fund the coupon program was included in the economic recovery bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last week. The bill passed today gives consumers more time to obtain converter box coupons; it also allows people with expired coupons to send them in to obtain replacements. “I’ve had numerous complaints from people who were not able to use their coupons before they expired. In some cases the stores were not able to get converter boxes in stock before the coupons went out of date. I even had some reports of the coupons arriving after the expiration date had lapsed. We needed to correct this problem,” said Oberstar.

An identical bill has already passed in the Senate so today’s House vote will send the measure to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.

1 Comment

  1. JJ 02/7/09 at 12:00am

    First with the stimulus package and now with this legislation, I’m glad that both parties seem to be making an effort to work with each other and listen to opposing viewpoints. That seems like a big change from previous Congresses. Hopefully it continues in the future. I think that would let Congress actually accomplish a lot during this session.

    I saw that the Friends of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is asking people to give their opinion on the most important thing for Congress to do next. Then they are going to focus their efforts on getting Congress to accomplish what we actually want them to do.

    What do you think Congress should do? Should they do anything else related to the digital TV transition? Should they work on other issues related to the airwaves and the FCC? Or should they focus their efforts on completely different areas? Make sure to add your opinion so Congress can know what we want them to do next – www.friendsoftheuschamber.com/email/email4.cfm?id=200

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