Thursday, January 08, 2009

Obama Asks Congress To Delay DTV Switch, Add More Funds

Following the announcement by the NTIA that the DTV converter program was out of funds President-elect Obama and his transition team have asked congress to delay the cutoff date for the DTV transition.

In a letter sent to Capitol Hill this afternoon (PDF), and obtained by The Los Angeles Times, John Podesta, Co-chair of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team said congressional action is needed. The action would be the "first step" toward helping consumers get ready for the transition to digital television. It also called funds provided to support the conversion "woefully inadequate."

"The government's programs to assist consumers through the upheaval of the conversion are inadequately funded," said Podesta. "There is insufficient support for the problems consumers (particularly low income, rural and elderly Americans) will experience as a result of the analog signal cutoff."

Meredith Baker, acting head of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration told reporters on a conference call Monday, 103,000 people are currently on the waiting list for DTV converter box coupons. Baker attributed the cash shortfall, in part, to a late surge in coupon requests.

According to the Nielsen Co., about 7% of U.S. TV households, or 7.7 million homes, were totally unprepared for the digital switch as of last month, meaning they either didn't have TVs capable of receiving a digital signal, didn't have cable/satellite TV or hadn't yet purchased a DTV converter box. The percentage is higher in some areas with the Los Angeles Times reporting 9.46%, or about 535,000 homes were unprepared for the switch.

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