On Thursday, President-elect Barack Obama's transition team asked Congress to delay the shut-off of analog TV broadcasts, which is currently scheduled for February 17. According to Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, postponing this shut off could confuse consumers. There’s also concern that consumers won’t take the new deadline seriously if the date is moved.
The request for a delay comes shortly after the FCC ran out of $40 coupons that help to make the converter boxes more affordable. These converter boxes will make it possible for older TVs to receive digital broadcasts after the transition. During an interview at CES, Martin said it’s important to get the converter box program back on track, but he doesn’t feel it’s necessary to delay the analog turnoff.
"There are options they can do without having to delay to get coupons flowing immediately," Martin said. “Congress could give the program additional funding, or eliminate the 90-day expiration deadline on the coupons,” he said.
Considering the number of messages, TV advertisements, and other announcements surrounding the February 17 deadline, we’d have to agree with Martin. In addition, many broadcasters have already scheduled their team in order to take down the analog antennas and maximize digital coverage. A delay could affect the plans of these companies and individuals as well. Furthermore, a change of the deadline would also delay plans to use the newly freed frequencies for other services.
Democratic FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein doesn’t agree with Martin, however. "This program has been badly mismanaged. It's not ready for prime time. There are so many elements of the preparation that have not been undertaken…. We don't have program in place in the field to help people who need assistance in their homes. The phone banks are inadequately prepared."
Regardless of what ends up happening, one thing is sure: We’ll be glad when this whole mess is over.
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