Digital TV delay passes in Senate

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The United States Senate has voted unanimously to delay the digital television transition, which was supposed to happen on February 17, for four months to June 12. The vote, which came after the NTIA’s coupon program announced that it ran out of money, is seen as a huge victory to the Obama administration.

“I firmly believe that our nation is not yet ready to make this transition at this time,” Jay Rockerfeller (D-W.Va), the Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, said. “The Senate acted responsibly to give the Obama administration time to attempt to bring order to a mismanaged process.”

This move will allow stations to broadcast in both analogue and digital, until June 12, but stations can switch to digital early if they feel ready – allowing the vacated spectrum to be allocated to public safety services and other uses by the telecommunications companies.

The coupon program, which allowed people to use it to subsidise the digital converter box to continue to watch television after the date, announced earlier this month that it had hit a $1.34 billion funding limit, and is using old coupons that have been unredeemed to those on a waiting list to get the coupon.

The requests is said to be up to nearly 2.6 million as of last Wednesday.

The bill now goes to the House Energy and Commerce Committee for review tomorrow.