Congress approves shifting the analog cutoff date from its original Feb. 17 deadline to give customers some wiggle room.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to push back the date that analog signals will cease in order to ensure that all U.S. households have time to prepare. The U.S. Senate approved the same bill about two weeks ago. President Obama has already voiced support for the delay.
The DTV transition was scheduled to take place Feb. 17, but local, state, and federal lawmakers throughout the country warned that families who couldn't afford converter boxes would be left in the dark.
Television sets that rely on rabbit ears to receive broadcast signals will not work without the boxes, and a government program to reimburse consumers for the converter boxes ran out of money while requests for reimbursement continued to pour in.
The Nielsen Co. estimates that 6 million homes would lose all television reception if the transition took place this month. Federal regulators and advocacy groups pointed out that the homes would have been cut off from emergency broadcasts and critical news reports.
U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., issued a statement explaining the move.
"We've got to make sure the transition to digital television is done in a way that protects consumers," Kerry said in the statement.
He said the delay would allow regulators and lawmakers to address potential glitches in the plan to switch to all-digital broadcasts and make sure American homes receive emergency broadcasts announcements.
"I'm glad my colleagues in Congress and President Obama agreed that a delay was necessary and took action to protect the millions of consumers at risk of losing their television signal," he said.
FCC commissioner Robert McDowell said that the agency would do all it could "to minimize the inevitable disruption and confusion this transition will cause."
"In the meantime, let's all stay on message: If you need a converter box, get it today and hook it up today and start enjoying the benefits of digital television today," he said in a statement.
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