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Senate Set to Vote on DTV-Switch Delay

Jan 16, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The U.S. Senate could vote as soon as next week to delay the digital TV changeover to June 12.
Senate staffers said today that because of the limited time before the scheduled Feb. 17 switch to digital television, the Senate leadership is hoping to short-circuit normal committee procedures and take directly to the Senate floor legislation introduced Thursday by Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., to delay the changeover.
If other senators agree to approve the delay by unanimous consent, a vote could take place as soon as next week. Initial plans to try for a vote Friday were put off as Democrats worked to forestall some Republicans’ objections.
As the Senate prepares to act, President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is again urging Congress to delay the DTV transition date, endorsing Sen. Rockefeller’s legislation and adding an urgent postscript that if the date isn’t changed, millions of consumers will be left without needed discount coupons for DTV converter boxes.
“Lack of appropriate planning has left many consumers vulnerable,” said John Podesta, co-chair of the transition team, in a letter today to House and Senate leaders. House Democrats on Thursday proposed $650 million more for the coupon program as part of an economic stimulus plan.
In the letter, Mr. Podesta cited problems in the government coupon program for converter boxes as the biggest reason for a delay. The $1.5 billion program provides $40 coupons for converter boxes, but ran out of money early this year, forcing the Department of Commerce to put new requests on a waiting list until existing coupons expire. Coupons expire after 90 days after they are issued.
In today’s letter, Mr. Podesta said that at the current pace the requests are coming in, 6 million coupon requests will be on hold on the day of the transition. He also warned that even if more money is added to the program, coupons won’t arrive in time for Feb. 17.
“The facts on the ground beyond the failure of the coupon program are also discouraging,” Mr. Podesta said. “As we have heard from a number of consumer advocacy groups, the shortfalls in planning for consumer support, education and converter box availability will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable Americans—low-income, disabled, elderly and rural people.
“We respectfully reiterate that only legislation that includes a delay of limited and specific duration will provide Congress and the new administration a realistic opportunity to resuscitate and modify the coupon program.”
(12:30 p.m.: Updated timeframe for vote)

8 Comments

  1. January 11, 2009
    TO: President-Elect Barack Obama
    FROM: Ruben Botello, Founder
    AMERICAN HOMELESS SOCIETY
    Dear Mr. Obama:
    I have been in and out of homelessness since being honorably discharged as a USMC Vietnam veteran in 1969. I wound up homeless then, in and out of homelessness with my two sons in the Eighties, and homeless on my own again in the Nineties.
    I started the American Homeless Society in 1987 while my sons and I were homeless in California. I have been in several hunger strikes, marches and demonstrations for homeless rights since then but have seen little progress.
    My longest hunger strike was 58 days against President Reagan’s “trickle down” economic policies that created much more instead of less homelessness in our country. You now speak about fixing our nation’s economy from the “bottom up” and that should mean you are starting by ending involuntary homelessness at the bottom.
    HUD Secretary Philip Mangano has been promoting 10-year plans to end homelessness in major cities across the country on behalf of the Bush Administration for the past few years. We would hope and pray you make a similar commitment to abolish homelessness but throughout our nation, not just in individual cities because there are far more homeless than these urban plans will ever reach.
    Slavery was abolished in America over a century ago; why not abolish homelessness today, Mr. Obama? Homelessness is just as bad as slavery in several ways and much worse in others.
    Men, women and children from all the races, colors, cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, religions and creeds in our diverse society find themselves homeless daily. They are forced to endure harassment, discrimination and persecution in our nation today much like the slaves President Lincoln’s armies fought to free in the Nineteenth Century.
    America’s homeless are also forced to endure nature’s harshest conditions without warm homes or shelter for protection; without good food and nutrition; without essential hygiene, medicine and healthcare; and without the necessary education, training or experience required to qualify for the dwindling supply of jobs in today’s worsening economy. Many of America’s homeless today are even employed but underemployed and unable to afford existing rentals while thousands of others are altogether unemployable.
    How can our great nation permit so many of these poor souls to continue to suffer and die needlessly on our streets? I joined the Marines to fight for my country in the Sixties so that all Americans could have a better life, not just the rich and well-to-do who are receiving all the bailouts today.
    The list of barriers and obstacles facing today’s homeless goes on and on, Mr. Obama. Please, if you are serious about fixing our nation’s economy from the bottom-up, begin at the real bottom by making a firm commitment to end involuntary homelessness throughout our country without further ado.
    Sincerely,
    Ruben Botello, Founder
    AMERICAN HOMELESS SOCIETY
    http://sananda.tripod.com/homeless/ahs1.html

  2. I’d like to see the impact the DTV switch had on Hawaii. I think it’s a lot of worrying about nothing. Y2K all over again. So people will be without TV for a day or two. Then they will go out and stimulate the economy and either do something outside their home or buy a new TV/converter. Do people HAVE to have TV? No. It isn’t a citizens right to get TV from the government. If you want the free signals, you have to buy the equipment.
    Stop being such a bunch of sissies and pull the plug on analog.

  3. Get the switch over with. Anyone who hasn’t already prepared by now should be without
    TV.

  4. Once again the Dems cave to a group of people that want a handout. The country’s ready to make the switch. A small number of individuals that are either too stubborn or too lazy to be accountable for their actions are now asking for more time. just the first of many handout, be it time, money, or gov’t programs in the next few years that responsible individuals will have to tolerate and ultimately pay for.

  5. I see it both ways:
    As a broadcast engineer whose station has been on the air with full power (1 MW UHF) DTV for years, I say, let’s throw the switch. Many TV broadcasters are an economic pinch right now; turning off analog will save them money. Some stations are having a hard time keeping obsolete transmitters going and some have badly damaged analog antenna systems…
    On the other hand, whoever picked 2/17/2009 as a date needs to be taken out and shot. Obviously, they have no idea about how tower work gets done in the northern part of our country. The coupon box program also was grossly problematic. Personally, I think it should have been bigger and allowed for the purchase of inexpensive SDTV ($250 or less) sets as well as boxes.
    At this point though, we are between a rock and a hard place. Here is my idea-Keep analog going until mid-June but allow any broadcaster that wants to take analog down early to do so as long as they are not impinging on another station’s “rights” (i.e. TV stations that will be using a 3rd channel for their final DTV assignment-those currently operating 2 out of core transmitters).
    Especially greenlight those operators reverting back to an in-core analog assignment they are already using from an out of core DTV assignment (i.e. an analog licensed ch. 13 with a DTV 59 license)-in short, many members of the “flash-cut” club. In this manner, we allow SOME marketplace decisions to be made. Those operating 30+ year old klystron UHF transmitters that are hanging on by a thread can put them down if they have to.
    At least some of the dangerous outdoor work can now be done in decent weather if the extension to June is approved.
    As far as an economic stimulus goes, the only domestic beneficiarires out there seem to be RF product companies making these transmitters and RF systems, etc. The CE business has scant production left in the US; I seriously doubt ANY converter box is built in the USA. Of course, I am not counting the new occupants of the 108 MHz being released…then again, how many of you carry a US built cell phone?
    Also, I think that Congress & the IRS ought to examine tax credits and other aid to the broadcasters who have had to buy hardware with very limited lifespans…after all, to the broadcaster this is an unfunded government mandate, right?
    Bill Magliocco, CPBE
    Atlanta

  6. I see it one way:
    Television is not a right, and it is by no means a necessity. It is a luxury. There are many alternative sources for news and information.
    All the handwringing about what we should do to make sure that nobody suffers any inconvenience or incurs even the slightest expense is nauseating to me, and is symptomatic of the serious problems our country is facing. This concept that everyone is entitled to everything, without any responsibility, has now extended into the ridiculous notion that everyone in the US has a right to receive television.
    Stick with the transition date. A small percentage of people will lose their television signal. Most those will figure out a solution quickly only because they are forced to, a few won’t figure it out at all, and all will survive just fine.

  7. Don’t forget TV stations that are waiting for the current occupant of their final elected DTV channel to shut down an existing analog operation. WNYA-DT in Albany, NY can’t even go on the air until WNYT (NBC) shuts down their analog channel 13 operation and goes 100% digital on VHF-12.
    There are other examples, plus numerous games of “musical chairs” that will happen in markets like Los Angeles and Philadelphia – one guy moves off a channel, another moves on.
    No matter how many times this is postponed, there will always be someone who will claim “I didn’t know about it, nobody told me.” Procrastination is such an endearing human trait…
    I agree with those who want the transition to go forward. We’ve been at this for over a decade now. Electric bills for redundant VHF and UHF transmitters are hurting smaller market stations -they’d like to pull the switch and move on to other pressing matters, such as retrans agreements and must-carry hassles with cable MSOs.

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