Congress Passes Bill to Delay Digital TV Conversion
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 In some cases the stores were not able to get converter boxes in stock before the coupons went out of date.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.