Consumers Union Urges DTV Transition Delay

The digital TV transition deadline of Feb. 17 could be a moving target. In a letter to Congressional leaders, Consumers Union suggested the deadline be moved “to minimize the number of consumers who will lose TV signals.”

Never a smooth process, the DTV changeover of late has hit a new snag.

On Jan. 5, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which runs the converter-box coupon program, ran out of funding. Since then, the NTIA has been forced to put more than 100,000 consumers on waiting lists for the coupons.

Without converter boxes, analog TVs will no longer be able to receive over-the-air signals once the digital transition takes place. Cable and satellite customers will have no disruption of service.

“Millions of consumers could now be forced to spend their own money to navigate this federally mandated transition,” Consumers Union wrote in its Jan. 7 letter. “This economic climate is not the right time to ask consumers to dig deeper into their own pockets to pay for the miscalculation by the federal government.”

According to several reports, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet, believes that a delay might be a wise choice.

The National Assn. of Broadcasters also is concerned, and sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to approve more coupon-program funding, among other options. The NAB stopped short of advocating that the DTV deadline be moved.

Also this week, the Federal Communications Commission earmarked $8.4 million in grants to 12 grassroots groups to aid in educating consumers about the transition.

Nearly 7 percent of TV households are not ready for the digital conversion, according to Nielsen.