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UPDATED After we posted a story about a possible delay in the DTV transition earlier today, President-elect Obama’s transition team asked Congress to push back the DTV switch date. More on that and a statement from Rep. Markey at the end of the original post. With […]

UPDATED After we posted a story about a possible delay in the DTV transition earlier today, President-elect Obama’s transition team asked Congress to push back the DTV switch date. More on that and a statement from Rep. Markey at the end of the original post.

With just a little over a month until the national digital television (DTV) switch on Feb. 17, the Consumers Union has asked to push the date back, and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass), chairman of the House Telecommunications and Internet sub-committee is considering it.

The Consumers Union is concerned that too many people will be shut off from television service once the switch occurs. TVWeek reports that the Consumers Union sent a letter to key legislators as well as President Bush and President-elect Obama. From that letter:

“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 DTV switch hit a big bump in the road earlier this week when the program that funds the $40 coupons that can be applied towards the purchase of a DTV converter box ran out of money earlier than anticipated.

Last month, the Consumers Union found that while 90 percent of the country is aware of the switch, 25 percent think it requires subscribing to cable or satellite, and 41 percent think every TV needs a converter. Also last month, Nielsen released its latest DTV numbers and found that 7.8 million U.S. homes were completely unready for the switch.

The Consumers Union suggests pushing the date back four months. A spokesperson for Rep. Markey said “[W]ith the date looming, moving the date back certainly warrants further discussion and may be a wise choice.”

UPDATE: John Podesta, co-chair of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team, sent a letter to Capital Hill today, urging Congress to take action with regard to the DTV transition writing: “With coupons unavailable, support and education insufficient, and the most vulnerable Americans exposed, I urge you to consider a change to the legislatively-mandated analog cutoff date.”

Separately, Rep. Markey issued the following statement (ed. note: shortly after we posted Rep. Markey’s original statement, his office issued an updated version, which we have included here):

“President-elect Obama’s call to move back the digital television transition date highlights the vulnerability of millions of Americans to the impending analog signal shut-off. It also underscores the need for prompt Congressional examination of his proposal.

“Moving the transition date entails significant logistical challenges. However, the prospect of leaving millions of consumers in the dark requires Congress to immediately consider the feasibility of the President-elect’s proposal. In addition, Congress should move quickly to address the needs of the millions of Americans currently on a waiting list for coupons to purchase converter boxes. The Bush administration left us with insufficient notice to address this critical problem on anything other than an emergency basis. The Congress should immediately pass legislation providing for an exemption to the Antideficiency Act. This would make it possible for an additional 8 million Americans to receive coupons. I will work with my colleagues on this and other steps to protect consumers as quickly as possible.”

  1. In the UK, we are switching over a region at a time. We found in the first region that there were a lot of scare stories and scepticism, but with blanket communications in the weeks leading up to and succeeding the dates (it happened in two phases) very few people were left unable to watch TV

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  2. if my 80yr old grandma got the memo and got her converter box, everyone else should have as well.

    ok, maybe that leaves open those in the +80yr range, but that can’t be a large number– especially when you filter that by those that dont have cable.

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  3. If we wait until the recalcitrant are ready it will never happen. If we make the switch it will be remarkable how quickly those who just cannot make the change will make the change. There is almost no one in our society who wants to go without TV. They will get it when it is no longer there.

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  4. Finally, the sleeping DTV Giant has awoken. A Press Conference this week at the Natl Press Club in DC the topic was “Reforming the Federal Communications Commission”, Jessica Rosenworcel, Senate Commerce Comittee panelist stated “that there are currently 21 million Americans not ready for the DTV transition on Feb. 17, 2009.” A disproportionate number of these TV viewers are elderly, disabled, minorities, and rural. It would be morally irresponsible to not recognize that as diligent as the FCC, NTIA and NAB have been to “get the word out” more needs to be done in the application area. Focus 80% on the grassroots level assisting people getting connected and 20% on the awareness level.

    To support this campaign click: http://www.pushthedateback.com which sends a letter to congress
    To sign the petition click http://www.pushthedateback.net

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  5. This has been discussed very publicly for two years. The airwaves have been blanketed with warnings and explanations for several months now. The coupons were available for a long time. They were clearly advertised as first come, first serve with a limited supply.

    Meantime, for months, I’ve had constant reception problems with DTV because broadcasters can’t get on their final designated channels while analog broadcasts continue. The upshot is that I can’t receive the CBS station in my market (Chicago) and reception is irregular on many of the other channels while we await the final switch. This state of affairs should not be allowed to continue in order to cater to those who have been ignoring all of the warnings. The switch should happen as scheduled.

    When televisions stop working, the procrastinators will finally make the effort to do what they need to do. It isn’t right that the rest of his should wait longer to get decent reception back because 10% of the public are habitual procrastinators.

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  6. We have all known about this for 10 years now. Maybe those who didn’t heed the warnings and waited until the last minute can rely on the old standby for their news and information–RADIO.

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  7. Neil Polimeni Friday, January 9, 2009

    As usual those of us who prepare must sit back and watch Big Brother come to the rescue for those of our population that chooses to make excuses for lack of preperation. I agree with the other postings, when the screens go blank people will make the change.

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  8. As far in the time as 2003 the country TV industry is ready to turn off the analog system. What’s the buss? What’s the happening !!!? Does this switch off belong to the family of Vista and Windows 7 family?
    TV. 31 opportunities at NAB Convention.

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  9. [...] a Bailout for Procrastinators? Last week, President-elect Obama suggested that the country push back the upcoming nationwide switch to digital TV (DTV) on Feb. 17. After bailing out banks, Wall Street [...]

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  10. [...] week, President-elect Obama suggested that the country push back the upcoming nationwide switch to digital TV (DTV) on Feb. 17. After bailing out banks, Wall Street [...]

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