With a vote of 264-158, the House agreed to delay the DTV transition to June 12. The Senate voted last week for the delay, and President Obama is expected to sign it. The delay will help the millions of consumers whose coupons expired before the converters were even available, as well as the two million on a waiting list for the coupons.

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  1. phoenix6666 says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but the initial vote for the delay was unsuccessful, right? I wonder what changed between then and now.

  2. redskull says:

    Save this story, Consumerist, because when June 12 arrives you can just change the date to October and use it again.

    Cheezus H. Rice, just switch already and get it over with!

    • Major-General says:

      @redskull: Here here!

      • dvdchris says:

        @Major-General: You mean “hear, hear!”
        I’m not trying to be an ass, but it annoys the crap out of me when I see expressions incorrectly spelled. It’s an indication that the person writing it doesn’t know the meaning of the expression.

        • Jesse L. Pink says:

          @dvdchris: Since “hear, hear!” is meant to be an audible expression, does it really matter if they spelled it here or hear? It got the correct point across.

    • artieb says:

      @redskull: I agree, switch it over! Do we have any idea how many of those people without coupons that applied for them actually have cable or satellite? I can see consumers saying “well if the gobernment is gonna git it to me fa free…” or, the other argument, “If my cable goes out I want to be able to watch the local news/weather.” The people waiting have had a whole year at least to get their coupons. I say shut them off and free the spectrum.

    • TVarmy says:

      @redskull: When they switch over, the “whitespace” where the old analog TV channels were will be open for new applications, most likely internet. The mobile phone companies are really pushing it back, because the new open frequencies can be used for widespread wireless internet and VOIP, which compete with cell phone services.

  3. Plates says:

    How much is this going to cost?
    How many riders are attached to this bill?

  4. Rachacha says:

    Maybe they could give away a free Digital converter box with every Snuggie that is sold and give up on the coupon program.

    Do we really anticipate that an aditional 80-100 million in funding will be approved and available in the next 3 months so that consumers will be able to obtain their free converter boxes in time for the June 12 switch.

    • samurailynn says:

      @Rachacha: Or, instead of bailing out banks and auto companies, they could give them to give out to new customers. DTV converter box free with every new account/car!

  5. Wild Monkey says:

    Damn it, four more months of those stupid commercials. Not like this vote is going to cause less confusion. Stupid politicians.

    • Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

      @Wild Monkey: And all the private sector companies (network affiliates, etc) will have to re-do all their commercials that talk about February. That can’t be cheap. That’s about 80% of the DTV commercials I see on a daily basis.

    • madfrog says:

      @Wild Monkey:
      Yeah, I’m sick of those commericals. They have been on the TV for a year now (or at least it seems like it). WTF-why couldn’t people just get ready for this by now? I understand that the free coupon program ran out of money and some are on a waiting list, but sheesh! It’s 2009, not 1950. Quit dusting off the rabbit ears and get cable/dish service already. Off my soapbox.

  6. Matt says:

    If I recall the original bill provided the option for the networks to cut over on the February date anyways. Which to me makes sense. Refund the program, fill the analog channels with nothing but messages about switching to DTv and force the change anyways.

    • Merkin says:

      @Matt: This version does too (emphasis mine):

      “SEC. 4. IMPLEMENTATION.

      (a) Permissive Early Termination Under Existing Requirements- Nothing in this Act is intended to prevent a licensee of a television broadcast station from terminating the broadcasting of such station’s analog television signal (and continuing to broadcast exclusively in the digital television service) prior to the date established by law under section 3002(b) of the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 for termination of all licenses for full-power television stations in the analog television service (as amended by section 2 of this Act) so long as such prior termination is conducted in accordance with the Federal Communications Commission’s requirements in effect on the date of enactment of this Act, including the flexible procedures established in the Matter of Third Periodic Review of the Commission’s Rules and Policies Affecting the Conversion to Digital Television (FCC 07-228, MB Docket No. 07-91, released December 31, 2007).”

    • Jesse L. Pink says:

      @Matt: An ABC affiliate here in North Dakota already switched to DTV only. Before the Super Bowl. You can believe that most North Dakotans that watch sports were ready…

      People are lazy and procrastinate until it’s too late, then complain to their legislatures when they “didn’t have enough time.” Make the switch, already.

  7. jchabotte says:

    slackers. Those are the only people who will be “confused” by a DTV transition.. and i ain’t got time for slackers!

  8. Ash78 ain't got time to bleed says:

    And what would be so hard about simply assuring people that they’ll be reimbursed the $40 when the money is available? Why make everyone wait for the coupons?

    “Sorry you didn’t get a coupon on time, but if you send in your receipt, we’ll send you a check for $40 within 3 months”

    • samurailynn says:

      @Ash78: Actually, they should have just made it a tax credit like they do with everything else.

      • SweetBearCub says:

        @samurailynn: What about people that don’t file taxes (SSDI, SSI, etc..)? How would they get the money back? Those people are the most likely to actually need the $40.

        I personally think the gov should have just chosen among several converters and mailed them to people who requested them. No coupon BS, no (consumer) overcharging. (Who here really thinks those boxes cost even $40 to manufacture/sell?)

        • Matt says:

          @SweetBearCub: I thought those on SSDI, SSI, and the like HAD to file their taxes, year after year, just to prove that they met certain requirements and for calculating benefits, etc?

          • SweetBearCub says:

            @Matt: At least as far as SSI goes (and very likely SSDI), you cannot file taxes, since you have no taxable income. Or so the IRS help line told me. This has the side-effect of locking me and many other consumers out of any tax credits or economic stimulus packages.

            And for the record, no I do not LIKE collecting SSI. I want to work, as evidenced by the fact that I spend my time in an internship program working my way up the ladder to be a social worker. My odds of finding companies willing to hire me though is about the same as me collecting my lottery winnings (I don’t play) and being struck by lightning as I did so.

        • tmed says:

          @SweetBearCub: Damn Skippy! No blithering excuse for the middle man except a kickback.

          Hundreds or thousands of temp jobs, a simple, and important, works program.

          I get that when this would have been decided, there was no visible need for a works program, but there was never an excuse to do this through retail marketplaces.

          This type of distribution program is something that the government is not good at, but it is something the government should learn. Many of the people who need a converter box don’t go (or can’t go) to the stores that sell them.

          Why not roll this out across the states a region at a a time, ala the UK?

          I agree with Obama that the implementation haas been bad. I disagree that a delay will address the issues, and I am personally annoyed, because I could’ve waited to buy my Tivo HD until June. In this type of plan, you have to assume that some people will only be goaded to action by the actual loss of signal.

  9. Yogambo says:

    “The delay will help the millions of consumers whose coupons expired before the converters were even available.”

    No it won’t. It’ll morph this screw-up into one giant clusterfu*k. The money isn’t allocated properly for the coupons, but the adverts have been running like mad. Cue mass confusion…

    • scoosdad says:

      @Yogambo: Yup, and now the Consumer Electronics Association head is saying that there may be converter shortages anyway, since the manufacturers and retailers planned their inventories based on the February 17 date and there aren’t going to be enough to sell into June:

      [www.broadcastingcable.com]

  10. albear says:

    Pretty stupid. They should have gone to 2016 if they wanted.

    It’s funny to know that the 1st original DTV deadline was mid 2006 HA!

  11. Mark Sansone says:

    This is a terrible idea. The government is in desperate need of money, and selling the analog channels to the private sector could secure billions very, very soon.

    • Matt says:

      @Mark Sansone: They sold the rights to those off a long time ago.

      • spongebue says:

        @serreca: The way I look at it, the government is making an enormous profit by making who knows how many television sets worthless without a converter box.

        It’s kind of like buying music with DRM, only to have the DRM servers taken down a couple years later… sure, it’s not your right to listen to music, but if you paid for it, and someone else rendered your purchase nearly worthless, you’d expect compensation or a reasonable substitution. Coupons for converter boxes are good enough (it’d be nice if they were $50-$60, to fully cover one, but some places have them for $40 if you look hard enough).

        • serreca says:

          @spongebue: Yes but the TVs that need the converter boxes have to be pretty old, right?

          When CDs became mainstream, did the government start handing out tape-to-CD recorders?

          What am I missing here?

        • PunditGuy says:

          @spongebue: I keep seeing variations on the theme that the government is making analog TVs worthless. Fact is, none of the peripherals that you have hooked up to your analog TV are going to magically stop working. So watch movies on your DVD player or fire up your ColecoVision, safe in the knowledge that they will continue to function long after the analog cut-off date… whenever that is.

          • spongebue says:

            @PunditGuy: Ok, maybe not *worthless* but the basic element applies that they are significantly reducing the value of the unit, and should take reasonable efforts to make up for it.

            @serreca: The TVs effected aren’t necessarily incredibly old. I know a lot of people with TVs that are no newer than 5 years old, work perfectly fine, have plenty of life left in them, but are not digital ready. It’s not like the only TVs effected are those with dials on them or something. Oh, and something else that’s probably quite overlooked… your VCR you use to record your shows? Chances are, that’s gone, too, without a box.

          • spongebue says:

            @PunditGuy: Sorry, got a bit mixed up trying to reply to 2 comments. See reply above if you’re interested.

          • jeffbone says:

            @PunditGuy: I want to throw a shoe at my (analog) TV every time I hear one of the PSA’s that says, “On Feb 17th, your TV will STOP WORKING!” No, it won’t, moron, it’ll still play NTSC VHS tapes and DVD’s just as it always has. This is the kind of basic inaccuracy that is causing confusion.

    • scoosdad says:

      @Mark Sansone: The money for that is already in the bank. How do you think they’re funding those $40 coupons?

      Some of it may be trickling down into the economy, but in a very very indirect way.

  12. Anonymous says:

    This is complete BS. Even if we wait until 2012 there will still be millions of people who aren’t prepared. At least by going ahead and making the change, you force people to do something or go without. There’s no real motivation if you keep putting it off.

    When I was in my broadcasting classes in undergrad, we talked about the digital changeover taking place in the next 5-8 years. That was in 1992.

    Let’s get it over with already.

  13. PenneAll'Arrabbiata_GitEmSteveDave says:

    You know, they warned everyone around Mt. St. Helen to get the hell out of dodge b/c there was going to be an eruption. Most moved out. Others stayed and died. You can not get 100% compliance, b/c 100% of the population isn’t “sane” or “compliant”. I will bet the second those people in the homes who didn’t leave saw the wave of ash approaching their homes, they made a bee line for the door to try to escape. The only thing that motivated them to move was the unavoidable approach of something that couldn’t be stopped.

  14. puka_pai says:

    The delay will help the millions of consumers whose coupons expired before the converters were even available.

    Why not just make all converter coupons non-expiring, regardless of what it says on the front? Every one of those coupons, whether used or not, were budgeted for, so there’s the possibility of a goodish chunk of money in the initial budget that will never be spent. It wouldn’t be that hard to get the word out to the places that sell the converters that there’s now no expiration date. (Whether it got down to the front-line employees is a whole ‘nother thing, I know.)

    Something I haven’t see addressed is what about people who are told they aren’t able to have a box? I got one coupon myself (we have satellite) and gave it to a co-worker because when she went to apply she was told her address was not in an “authorized service area”. I’m guessing she’s outside the broadcast area for the local channels and so the converter may not work for her. She can’t get cable (rural area) and can’t afford a dish. How are people like her being served by the “public” airwaves?

    • twophrasebark says:

      @puka_pai: “Every one of those coupons, whether used or not, were budgeted for, so there’s the possibility of a goodish chunk of money in the initial budget that will never be spent.”

      That’s incorrect. As soon as the coupons expire without being used, they put that money back into the pool.

      That’s why people are on a waiting list right now. They wait for the coupons to expire and send out more…

    • dvdchris says:

      @puka_pai: Front line employees don’t even look at the coupon, you just swipe it like a credit card.

  15. Jthon says:

    This won’t help anyone. If your coupon expired you’re likely already stuck. The rules are that you can apply for up to two coupons total in your life, if you got both and let them expire then you can’t apply again. If you got one you can still get another.

    Problem two is that they just don’t have enough money to give coupons to everyone. It’s not like this bill suddenly allocated more money to the coupon program. So even as they reallocate funds from expired coupons some people will still not get coupons.

    In addition to problems with coupons, there are still a lot of people who won’t get any TV after the switch since the legal transmission power allowed for digital stations is a fraction of what was allowed for analog transmissions. That combined with additional problems with how DTV signals deal with multipath reflections will cause many people’s TV signals to go dark. Just about everyone using indoor “rabbit ears” will be unable to get digital signals even with a box. (I live in the middle of a major metro area and can’t get NBC digitally due to transmission problems.)

    People have had several years to make the change, and as long as the government keeps passing extensions they’ll keep on delaying.

    • Matt says:

      @Jthon: Part of the legislation in passing this bill was to allow those who previously applied but haven’t redeemed (ie expired) to reapply for new coupons.

  16. serreca says:

    Why is the government required to even do this for people, for free? TV watching isn’t a right last time I checked. Make the change and if people want to watch TV badly enough, they’ll get what they need.

    Maybe I’m a cold-hearted bitch, though.

  17. Fresh-Fest-1986 says:

    In these pressing times all this money we have spent on this is looking ridiculous. We can only try for so long to pull these people into modern life. Enough is enough.

  18. VotaIdiota says:

    Watch me shed a single tear for stupid people.

    Oh wait, no I won’t, because that would be a waste, much like this delay.

    If these idiots couldn’t process the “get box by Feb 17th 2009″ message that’s been repeating on a 15 minute loop for the last half-decade, how will they possibly be able to process the “Just kidding, actually now it’s going to be June 12th, but some stations might switch over on the original Feb 17 date, so who knows?” message remotely competently?

    I hope and pray that every station in the Seattle metro area (and, by extension, every station in America) continues as planned, knocks down all the analog towers come the 17th, and cranks up the digital towers full blast. The news reports of mass confusion come Feb 18th will be CLASSIC.

    Screw all those people who weren’t ready. They aren’t owed SHIT.

  19. GC says:

    This is bullshit. Once again, the lowest common denominator is catered to.

  20. twophrasebark says:

    Mostly the problem are elderly Americans who have been watching the same Zenith since the 1970s.

    • Youthier says:

      @twophrasebark: And even my 88 year old grandpa went out and bought himself two flat screen HDTVs and cable in the past two months (he liked the first one in his living room so much, he bought the second for his bedroom) when he realized he was close to the deadline.

      At least someone’s keeping the economy alive.

    • kreatre2009 says:

      @twophrasebark:

      That’s tough! If they can’t buy a $50 converter box then, they can just watch static.

  21. dreamsneverend says:

    …fucking stupid. Plain and simple we are shown again that the Feds have their heads far up their asses.

  22. benn09 says:

    According to this Consumerist post ([consumerist.com]), Hawaii has already made the transition, leaving many people without television.

    I’m all for delaying the transition in order to assist all those Americans who require financial assistance in order to retain their television service, but what about those that have already been affected?

  23. Paladin_11 says:

    As reported on ArsTechnica, the delay will help certain interests (Clearwire Communications) have more time to develop a competing product to Qualcomm, who are waiting in the wings for the transition to take place so that they can roll out a mobile video service. This alone wouldn’t be so bad — if an advisor to President Obama’s transition team wasn’t on the board of Clearwire, and apparently had a hand in the establishing delay. Instead, it looks like more of the same shady backroom dealings in Washington.

    [arstechnica.com]

  24. Posthaus says:

    We’ve got to put up with this “get ready” crap until June!? *head asplodes*

    The broadcasters should do all of us a favor – for those of us who were actually prepared for this transition anyway – and air those annoying DTV switch informercials and PSA’s ONLY on the analog broadcasts, and only those until June 12th. Maybe then, some of those people might take a hint. Maybe.

  25. tc4b says:

    I used the coupons to buy converters for my two TV’s, then bought an antenna, and called to cancel cable. I get more channels than I used to with basic cable, and much clearer.

    I think they’re obligated to fund the coupons they promised they would, but switch the shit over already.

  26. sourrob says:

    Sorta of an aside: I was on the waiting list for the coupon (applied right around the New Year) and got my coupon today.

    For the record, I just procrastinate; I’m not a technological idiot. I still have rabbit ears because I don’t want to pay a recurring monthly fee for cable or satellite (even basic cable). I like that in-season I can get some live sports games (4 NFL games per week, Saturday baseball on Fox, etc), I’ve got some shows I like to watch regularly as they happen (24 for example) and I absolutely love the late night synicated comedy lineup they have on Fox here in Austin. I just can’t see myself getting value out of having 70 channels where I’ll watch 5 of them.

    I really miss Top Chef, though.

  27. Joewithay says:

    boooooo :(

  28. XTC46 says:

    This will be the first decision of Obama that I dislike.

  29. richcreamerybutter says:

    I’ve set up my box and new antenna, and the reception I have so far sucks. I did read that supposedly some of the stations aren’t fully up to speed until after the conversion, so maybe it will be a little better.

    If anything, this delay will at least ensure I get to see this season of Lost.

  30. zimmi88 says:

    Yep yep… and then June 12th will roll around and the same people that were complaining about the switch will still be complaining because they haven’t done anything about it. The government’s falling behind on converter box coupons isn’t helping, but still… come on…

  31. LiC says:

    …and PBS is screwed. Now they have to pay to air analog several months longer than they planned, and it’s not in their budget.

  32. MercuryPDX says:

    Learned yesterday that the majority of my local stations (Portland, OR) will be switching on the original date… regardless of the delay.

    • dvdchris says:

      @MercuryPDX: Yes, some 61% of stations will go ahead and turn off analog well before June 12.

      • god_forbids says:

        @dvdchris: Can you imagine the additional suffering this highly publicized decision by Congress will cause when that happens?

        *TV goes black*

        “But, but, but … I thought we had until June now!?!” :(

  33. kreatre2009 says:

    This is stupid. Those converter boxes aren’t even that expensive!

    [www.walmart.com]

    Why must the U.S. tax payer fund this transition? If you haven’t prepared for the digital TV transition, it’s your own fault. Why does everyone think that the government has to bail them out of their stupidity?

  34. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    This really is the best of both worlds. The bill does NOTHING to prevent early transition. Many areas already are completely digital. A majority of the stations will turn off their analog on Feb. 17 or earlier, if only to save the additional money associated with dual broadcasting (analog plus digital).

    For those areas facing true technical challenges with getting a decent digital signal capable of serving their area, they are allowed a little more time to solve the problem before being faced with a mandatory switch. They won’t be forced to turn off their analog signal until June.

  35. sspeedracer says:

    I’m one of those people that got screwed with the coupons. I got two sent in the mail and both expired before any product was available to purchase.

    They don’t let you renew/replace the coupon. Where can I get an new coupon?

  36. Sean Tapscott says:

    Uhh, why was it delayed. And what’s this shit, “the coupons expired before the converters were even available.” ? Just buy a new freakin’ TV already. I fail to see the point in getting a stupid 60 dollar box just so someone doesn’t have to replace their 16 inch color TV that has bad-quality-reception rabbit ears.

  37. vladthepaler says:

    My coupons expired before I could use them; is there a way I can get unexpired ones?

  38. mangopants says:

    By doing this, aren’t we catering to the lowest common denominator? Let’s try to left them up, not reduce everyone else to their level.

    One more reason I think we are in the twilight years of our country. :(

  39. Tonguetied says:

    This really makes no sense. What group was agitating to delay the changeover? AARP? I certainly haven’t been hearing a lot of complaints and I got Grandma’s TV changed over two months ago…

    As an aside Channel 54 here in Austin has been doing some odd things. We’ve been using the converter box exclusively for the last few months so imagine my surprise when, the other day my signal was interrupted by a screen message saying “If you’re seeing this message then you’re not prepared for the changeover…”

    I am somewhat concerned over the announcement that the broadcast signal strength of digital is going to be reduced. I pick up our local channels just fine using an amplified indoor antenna, but am wondering what will happen once the signal strength goes down.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Tonguetied: Well, when the earlier commenter said that signal strength would be reduced, he wasn’t exactly correct – TRANSMISSION power will be reduced, but that’s because digital broadcasting is more efficient. Coverage will be roughly the same or improved.

      http://www.fcc.gov/dtv/markets/ has pdf maps of the major metropolitan areas comparing stations’ current analog coverage with their anticipated digital coverage.

      Digital signals are possibly subject to greater interference from buildings and trees and weather & etc., and unlike analog, poor reception doesn’t mean increasing snow and static – digital pretty much just cuts off. But note that CURRENT poor digital reception might not mean much, as there are lots of stations that are not operating on their “real” digital channel and/or can’t go full power until the transition date. (You do know that many stations already have digital channels up and running now, right?)

      I live in a multi-story apartment building surrounded by other apartment buildings & tall trees, on the other side of the city from where all the broadcast antennas are, and my $20 indoor unamplified VHF/UHF picks up all the current digital channels just fine. In fact, I’ve seen a bunch of comments around the web that unamplified antennas actually work better than the amplified ones. But it is generally agreed that indoor antennas can’t hold a candle to a more traditional antenna on the roof or in the attic, so if you’re a homeowner, I’d go that route if your indoor antenna isn’t cutting it.