Consumers Union Urges Delay of Digital Switchover

Jan 7, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Consumers Union is asking Congress and the White House to delay the digital TV transition from Feb. 17, citing problems with the government coupon program for DTV converter boxes and other worries.
In letters today to President George W. Bush, President-elect Barack Obama and U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Consumers Union suggested the government’s inability to issue new coupons, on top of concerns about the number of call centers and the amount of assistance to viewers, should prompt a re-examination of the switchover date.
“We believe Congress should consider delaying the transition until a plan is in place to minimize the number of consumers who will lose TV signals, particularly by fixing the flaws in the federal coupon program created to offset the cost of this transition,” said the letter from Joel Kelsey and Christopher Murray, senior policy analysts for Consumers Union. The letter also went to Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
“With Feb. 17 only 40 days away, we are concerned that millions of at-risk consumers, including rural, low-income and elderly citizens across the country, could be left with blank television screens. Consumers have fewer resources than ever to buy the necessary equipment to regain access to essential news, information and emergency broadcasts. Against this backdrop, Congress should consider delaying the digital transition so the significant flaws in the converter box coupon program can be adequately addressed and sufficient local assistance put in place to help millions of consumers who are being forced to navigate this transition.”
The request from the consumer group comes two days after the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced it had run out of money to issue the $40 coupons that are intended to defray the cost of digital TV converters; instead, it had to create a waiting list for issuing new coupons until old coupons expire. The coupons expire after 90 days.
In their letter, Mr. Kelsey and Mr. Murray noted the digital switchover resulted in the government making $19 billion from selling the analog spectrum that was opened up by the switch.
“Millions of consumers could now be forced to spend their own money to navigate this federally mandated transition,” said the letter. “This economic climate is not the right time to ask consumers to dig deeper into their own pockets to pay for the miscalculation by the federal government.”


  1. I am in need of a digital tv converter. I am retired and don,t have much money. They cost 49.95 at wal mart. And since I can,t get a 40.00 government coupon I won,t be able to watch tv anymore. The drug dealers down the street across from the horehouse is selling the government coupons for 20.00 dollars but I don,t think that is fare for me to have to give them my money to be able to watch tv. Do you think its right? Robert L. Heath

  2. Maybe Congress, while they are at it, can come up with some “bailout” money to pay the TV stations to keep both their analog and digital transmitters on the air. Running those things isn’t cheap and there is the matter of a huge power bill plus maintenance and replacement parts to consider. Some stations have already stopped transmitting in analog and are digital only. Is the government going to pay the stations to keep their analog signals on the air?

  3. Radioguy, I would ask you to stick to cleaning tape machines. Remeber the inverse square law? The cost of operating an analog signal using the 74 dbu contour can be significantly reduced by reducing the ouput power of the transmitter. A reduction to one eighth power results in most cases, no receivable loss of signal to the DMA. In some cases, this would result in a noisier signal, but then the point is achieved. Switch to digital and get a better picture! What a concept! The cost of operating the analog transmitter at a lessor power can put the operating costs lower than keeping the tower lights on.

  4. Hey, maybe we could consider the inconceivable: let television die. What has it really done that is of any lasting use or consequence? Sapped the minds of four generations, bolstered the consumer-instead-of-producer model, and allowed greasy politicians to lie to their heart’s content for free via “news” interviews that are thinly disguised campaign ads.
    How about instead we talk to ourneighbors, go to a city council meeting or twelve and let them know that we’re acutally alive, and involve ourselves in out country more fully. I don’t mean silly government funded programs, I’m talking about something that we have to do which acutally costs us something personally. It is only personal cost that makes folks realize the true value of something. Free over the air television is of no value, even for the “emergency” broadcasts. Our contry is experiencing an emergency that has been going on for decades, and there have been no Emergency Broadcast System alerts to let us know.

  5. We applied for the coupons, but before we received them, we had to move. Because the gov’t decided to send the coupons by bulk mail, they weren’t forwarded to our new address. The previous tenant at the place at where we moved also had applied, then moved. He didn’t receive his coupons, and beause of being sent by bulk mail, they weren’t delivered to the new tenants (us), either. We tried to reapply, but were rejected by the gov’t because “someone at your address has already applied.” No wonder so many of us aren’t ready for the digital TV transition.

  6. Instead of expecting the government to bail me out; Like a responsible citizen I took care of myself and ordered sattelite TV. Now you whiners are costing me money that I could have saved for another 4 months. And how many more after that? Grow up and take care of yourself and stop expecting the government to take care of your every whim. Instead of waiting to the last few weeks why didn’t you get your free coupon months ago? Grow up!

  7. I’m still trying to return my expired coupons. I sent out 3 different emails to Commerce Dept. but no response. How do I submit these coupons and return them. Please give me directions as to where i would send these expired coupons. I have 2 $40 coupons.
    Thanks!! I await a response and directions to return unused expired coupons.

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