Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rep. Weiner Calls for Delay in National Switch to Digital TV Signal

Weiner Calls for Delay in National Switch to Digital TV Signal Millions Nationwide and 300,000 in City Not Ready for Digital TV Switch $650 Million in Stimulus Funds to Help Consumers Buy Converters

New York City – With less than a month until the national switch from an analog to digital television, Representative Anthony Weiner (D – Brooklyn and Queens), a member of the House Commerce Communications, Technology, and the Internet Subcommittee, today called for extending the transition date to June 15, 2009 due to the large number of Americans who are still unprepared.

Weiner released new data today showing that more than 300,000 New Yorkers who have applied for federal funds to purchase digital converter boxes for their televisions still have not used those resources. More than 2 million people nationwide are waiting for federal funds.

Highlights of the Problem with the National Switch to Digital Television

§ Approximately 1,040,000 households in New York requested federal funds to purchase converters
§ At least 319,245 New Yorkers, or 32%, who have received funds still have not used them to buy converters
§ 2 million people nationwide have applied, but are still waiting, for federal funds
§ 375,000 New Yorkers have used federal funds to buy converters
§ Nearly 300,000 New Yorkers have expired funds, but many owners do not realize

Weiner announced that Congress is working to extend the conversion date by 115 days (to June 15, 2009) due to the large number of Americans who are still unprepared. The stimulus package also includes $650 million to help subsidize the purchase of the converter boxes, which are needed to allow an older, analog TV to receive a digital signal.

In order to modernize its broadcast system, the government is requiring all television signals to switch from analog, as received by TVs with “rabbit ears”, to digital. Individuals who fail to convert will not be able to access the digital transmissions, including emergency government announcements, on analog televisions – creating a major public safety problem.

The government is offering $40 coupons to subsidize the purchase of the technology. Many seniors and low-income people may still face problems accessing and installing the new technology. Converters cost between from $45 – $75.

Rep. Weiner said, “A major change is coming to the way we provide New Yorkers with emergency information. We want everyone to be prepared. New Yorkers need to know that coupons cover this change, and the feds need to fund the program.”