Senate Votes To Delay Analog To Digital Transition

Yesterday, the United States Senate voted, unanimously, to delay the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting.  Originally scheduled for February 17, the Senate approved delaying the the transition until June 12.  The measure approving the delay will now go before the House Commerce Committee, and could go before the full House for a vote as soon as today.

We receive our television signal via Dish Network satellite, so we don’t have to worry about the conversion.  Those who receive television via over-the-air antenna, however, may need to purchase an analog-to-digital conversion box.

From the DTV.GOV Digital TV Transition FAQs

What do I need to do to be ready for the end of analog TV broadcasting?

Because Congress mandated that the last day for full-power television stations to broadcast in analog would be February 17, 2009, over-the-air TV broadcasts will be in digital only after that date. If you have one or more televisions that receive free over-the-air television programming (with a roof-top antenna or “rabbit ears” on the TV), the type of TV you own is very important. A digital television (a TV with an internal digital tuner) will allow you to continue to watch free over-the-air programming after February 17, 2009. However, if you have an analog television, you will need a digital-to-analog converter box to continue to watch broadcast television on that set. This converter box will also enable you to see any additional multicast programming that your local stations are offering.

To help consumers with the DTV transition, the Government established the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a part of the Department of Commerce, administers this program. Every U.S. household is eligible to receive up to two coupons, worth $40 each, toward the purchase of eligible digital-to-analog converter boxes. Beginning in January of 2008, the NTIA has begun accepting applications for coupons. The coupons may only be used for eligible converter boxes sold at participating consumer electronics retailers, and the coupons must be used at the time of purchase. (Please note that these coupons will expire 90 days after mailing). Manufacturers estimate that digital-to-analog converter boxes will sell from $40 to $70 each. This is a one-time cost. For more information on the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program, visit, or call 1-888-388-2009 (voice) or 1-877-530-2634 (TTY).

Cable and satellite TV subscribers with analog TVs hooked up to their cable or satellite service should not be affected by the February 17, 2009 cut-off date for full-power analog broadcasting.

The government’s website still reads February 17.  Assuming the bill is approved by the House, which seems very likely, the new date should read June 12.  If you have an analog television, and you receive television via over-the-air antenna, you might want to think about requesting your converter box coupon.  Apparently, there are already 2.6 million people on the waiting list for their coupon.

One interesting side-note.  If the delay is passed, it could end up costing PBS stations, which receive much of their funding from tax payers, as much as 22 million dollars.

I actually installed a converter box for one of my family members.  It only took me about two minutes to hook the box up the antenna and the television, and a minute or two more to program it.  Interestingly, each digital channel actually consisted of two “channels” – one with regular programming and a second channel with news or weather.

So, what do you think?  Is this a good idea, considering the backlog of coupon requests?  Or, when the government sets a date, should they stick by it, no matter what?

12 thoughts on “Senate Votes To Delay Analog To Digital Transition

  1. The government gave us like 5 years to make the switch. I think that’s plenty of time. On the other hand, why did the gov’t even mandate this switch. Let the private companies make their own decisions.

  2. I think that pushing it back is ridiculous. Moving it back six months isn’t going to change a single thing. There will still be lazy people that must live under rocks that still won’t have their boxes. Let them go without for a week or so, it won’t kill them.

    The program isn’t even out of money, they are just counting (subtracting actually) the cost of the expired coupons from the allotted money. If the geniuses in charge would just reissue the expired/unused coupons there would be no problem. But, I guess they just need more money so that the rest can be funneled into some wasteful slush fund.

    It sucks that folks may have to buy a box out of their pocket though; if the date doesn’t get moved. But really, you can buy several of them for just over $40; AND, who can’t save up $40 over the course of what 2 years that we’ve known this was going to happen. That’s only $1.60 per day. I think that if 2 years hasn’t been long enough for some people to get ready that another 6 months won’t make a bit of difference.

  3. I agree with the above two comments. We had plenty of time – for the most part the people who aren’t ready now are the people who aren’t going to be ready in June. The quickest way to get them to change is to change the programming on them – then they’ll have to get up and do something about it.

  4. I too feel that this is a waste of time and tax dollars. It is TV, not healthcare, not education, not ending the war, but TV. I signed up for my coupons in October, got them in November and purchased my boxes 2 weeks ago. Love the better reception and only wished I would have done it last year!

  5. I think there has been PLENTY of time for folks to prepare for the switch. Since when should it be the government’s job to ensure Americans have television? Last time I checked, television was NOT a necessity.

    To me, this is just another example of government continuing to coddle people. We keep bailing out people who don’t take responsibility for anything – their debt – or their TV.


  6. Complete joke. I can’t believe that our government spends time on silly issues like this. I mean, it’s freaking 2009 – get a TV from this century already. Giving out millions for coupons on this. How come they don’t have these when wireless technology changes or some other absurb advancement? Dumb, dumb, and more dumb.

  7. I refuse to spend $ on cable, since I work long hrs, and am not an avid TV watcher. I ordered 2 coupons and never got them, must have gotten lost in the mail is all I can figure. Tried to order 2 more, nope! Not an option. Finally begged friends with cable to order for us and we now have 2 for TVs that we rarely watch. I get most of my news etc on the net. We did hook up the converters for senior family members months and months ago, no problem. Mine still not hooked up. I spent so much time on the phone with the gov. agency sending out coupons that is was a joke. Keep in mind that this is the same type of sevice you will get when we get national healthcare. I would rather have “bought” my converters without a stupid coupon, paid more for it and bypassed the gov.all together. It would have been cheaper then all the time I spent on the phone. But the retailers didn’t want to sell them without the coupon. Why should tax payers get dinged because I don’t have cable? I finally got a 3rd converter box on Ebay where they didn’t care if you had a stupid coupon.

  8. My understanding is that one of the reasons for this is not because so many people still need converter boxes, but because so many people end up with no television when they try to convert. In our area, which is somewhat mountainous, we discovered after buying a converter box a couple years ago that instead of a few fuzzy channels and two good ones, we received one channel period. All the signals from Seattle were being blocked because digital signals don’t travel as well as analog ones do. So, for anyone living in a rural area, or one like ours with mountains and things in the way, this transition means little or no tv. And if people have the money to pay for cable, sometimes it isn’t even available, either. So, it’s not as simple as being ready with a converter box, free or not.

  9. Im sorry, but I’m in the mindset that there should be no reason to delay the transition – there has absolutely been plenty of time for people to have made the necessary preparations to be ready for this move. No matter how long you delay it for, there will always be stragglers

  10. Just because this bill passed Congress and The president says he will sign it does not mean analog tv will be still available. Many stations are apply to shut down on Feb 17th as planned. They have until Monday to apply to do this.

  11. This is foolish. They should have let the original deadline stand. They also should not have let the coupons expire – couldn’t they have seen this coming? Everyone knows that people procrastinate. I think it was generous to even have the coupons in the first place!

  12. This is the info I have received on the pushback:
    “An important feature of the bill give bradcast stations the OPTION of transitioning to digital prior to June 12. At this time, it is not known when ay particular broadcaster will stransion to digitial as they have UP TILL June 12 to make the transition. However, many broadcasters are still planning to complete their transition in February 12.

    This could create an ‘uneven’ transition for analog viewers who might lose some channelsdepending on when EACH broadcaster in their area transitions to digital”

    (Emphasis mine) – so basically most stations will still transition but you may have a broadcaster or two that decides to wait and do it later and won’t come in on the digital converter box – YIPEE!

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