Senate passes bill to delay DTV transition

According to a Reuters report, the Senate passed a bill on Monday to delay a nationwide switch to digital TV signals, giving consumers nearly four more months to prepare.

The transition date will move from Feb. 17 to June 12 under the bill that was fueled by worries that viewers are not technically ready for the congressionally-mandated switchover.

It would also allow consumers with expired coupons, available from the government to offset the cost of a $40 converter box, to request new coupons. The government ran out of coupons earlier this month, and about 2.5 million Americans are on a waiting list for them.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee canceled a review of the Senate bill, which is now expected to be considered by the full House today.

Many lawmakers worry that an estimated 20 million mostly poor, elderly and rural households are not ready for the switch, which requires owners of older TV sets receiving OTA signals to buy a converter box or subscribe to cable or satellite TV.

Broadcasters are moving from analog to digital signals to give public safety officials, as well as mobile communication service providers, more spectrum and to improve viewing quality.

Momentum had been building for a delay since President Barack Obama backed it earlier this month.

The digital TV bill also would extend the licenses of AT&T and Verizon Communications, which are waiting for the airwaves to be vacated when all televisions convert.

The companies, which paid $16 billion for the public airwaves in an auction last year, would get 116 extra days on their licenses under the proposed legislation.

CTIA, the wireless trade association, has said a delay could hurt confidence in the FCC's spectrum auctions.