Opinion

Recently, United States Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy voted with the majority of her colleagues to extend the deadline for the national conversion to digital television (DTV).

The vote came on the heels of a letter sent from Congresswoman McCarthy to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging an extension of the conversion process and requesting additional funding for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) Digital Television Converter Box Coupon Program. The letter was signed by 42 other Members of Congress.

As a result of the impending national switch from analog to digital television transmissions on Feb. 17, the NTIA has issued millions of coupons offering discounts for the purchase of the digital converter boxes necessary to continue receiving television signals without the use of cable or satellite television. The coupons offer $40 discounts for the converter boxes, which range in price from $40 to $70 and can be purchased at most electronics stores.

Due to a higher than expected demand for the converter box coupons, the NTIA has depleted the funding set aside for the DTV Converter Box Program and can no longer issue the coupons. While millions of households have already received their coupons, millions more will not have access to them under the current system.

S. 352, the Digital TV Delay Act, will extend the date of the conversion to digital transmissions from Feb. 17 to June 12. Additionally, the bill gives those on the NTIA's waiting list additional time to get the coupons they need. Additionally, the bill gives those whose coupons had expired an opportunity to apply for replacements. Even with the delay, the bill preserves the ability of public safety entities to use the DTV spectrum before the new transition date, ensuring that in times of emergency the necessary bandwidth would be available to coordinate appropriate responses.

"Because more and more households utilize their television as a primary source of news and information, I felt it imperative to delay the transition and ensure the preparedness of all American households for this change," said Rep. McCarthy.

To further facilitate the transition, Congresswoman McCarthy has asked Speaker Pelosi to include $650 million in the Economic Recovery Package for coupons for additional households to purchase DTV converter boxes.


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