Switch to digital TV set for Feb. 17

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    By Samantha Shirley

    The House Republicans shot down a bill Wednesday to delay the transition from analog to digital television broadcasting from Feb. 17 to June 12, and an estimated 6.5 million U.S. homes are reportedly unprepared for the Feb. 17 switch, according to an AP article.

    The bill, which was backed by the Obama administration and the Democratic Party, passed unanimously in the Senate Monday, but failed to receive a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Representatives, getting only a 258-168 vote. According to the Associated Press, the bill wished to postpone the switchover so more people would be ready, especially those in low-income and rural households.

    The AP reports that the transition to digital signals will “free up valuable chunks of wireless spectrum to be used for commercial services and interoperable emergency-response networks.”

    For those who do not have either a digital television or a digital converter box by Feb. 17, their television sets will go dark.

    The deadline will not affect those who already have satellite or digital cable on their televisions.

    According to the AP, most televisions made after 2004 have digital receivers, but those before 1998 do not. Some manufactured from 1988-2003 do, but owners will have to check.

    According to the AP, “The Nielsen Co. estimates more than 6.5 million U.S. households that rely on analog television sets to pick up over-the-air broadcast signals still are not prepared for the transition.”

    However, some say that this number is an over-estimate.

    “Jonathan Collegio, vice president for the digital television transition at the National Association of Broadcasters … [notes] that the numbers exclude consumers who have already purchased a converter box but not yet installed it, as well as those who have requested coupons but not yet received them,” according to the AP.

    The U.S. government issued coupons for $40 to supplement the cost of buying digital converters, which cost $50-$70, but they hit their funding limit after issuing $1.34 billion in coupons.

    Those who aren”t prepared for the switch can still apply for coupons at www.dtv2009.gov, but they will be added to the end of a waiting list with 3 million other names.

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