Senators Call For DTV Deadline Delay Till June 12

Originally planned for Feb. 17, the switch to a digital television signal broadcast has been plagued by a series of problems.
U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and John Rockefeller of West Virginia have introduced legislation calling for the switchover from analog to digital television to be delayed for three months until June 12.

Originally planned for Feb. 17, the switch to DTV has been plagued by a series of problems ranging from a lack of coupons for DTV converter boxes to fears the boxes are too expensive for many low-income families.

The senators, both Democrats, serve states with large rural populations that are likely to be impacted by any shortcomings in the program.

"In Minnesota, more than 21% of our households depend exclusively on over-the-air broadcast TV," Klobuchar said in a statement. "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."

The program to provide coupons so consumers can purchase boxes that will convert digital signals so they can operate on older analog TVs has run into problems. Many consumers who received $40 coupons toward the purchase of converters found that they weren't available in the early days of the drive, and when converter boxes became available, the deadline for using the coupons had expired.

President-elect Barack Obama also has called for the program to be delayed.

Rockefeller, the incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, pointed out that millions of Americans still haven't received coupons to purchase converter boxes. "Over 2 million Americans are waiting to receive a coupon to help them offset the cost of equipment that will help them manage the transition," Rockefeller said in a statement. "Millions more don't have the proper information they need."

In supporting a delay until June 12, Rockefeller noted that it would give the government more time to deliver converter box coupons.