NAB comments on NTIA proposal for DTV converter box voucher program

NTIA, the Commerce Department agency that advises the White House on telecom policy, has issued proposed rules on how it will administer a program designed to ensure that Americans do not lose access to broadcast television programming after the DTV "hard date" of Feb. 17, 2009.

NTIA has proposed that its program to subsidize DTV converter boxes will apply only to broadcast-only households. No home that subscribes to cable or satellite would be eligible for the $40 government voucher to pay for a DTV converter box.

NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton commented, "NAB always expected that homes relying exclusively on broadcast television would be given priority by NTIA when it adopts DTV converter-box rules. However, we would hope that no broadcast-only TV sets are forced to go dark during this transition. NAB will continue working with policymakers to ensure minimal consumer disruption as the February 2009 date approaches."

Congress has allocated up to $1.5 billion for the converter box program, which would pay for about 37 million converter boxes. According to the Government Accountability Office, there are 73 million "broadcast-only" TV sets currently in use in the U.S., 45 million of which are exclusively in "broadcast-only" homes. Another 28 million "broadcast only" TV sets are in homes that subscribe to cable and satellite.