Digital TV delay bill rejected by House: Switchover still on for Feb 17th

Jan 29, 2009
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Despite an assumption by many that the DTV switchover bill recently passed by the US Senate was a done-deal, Republican opposition in the House of Representatives has blocked its passing.  The bill, which sought to postpone the switching off of analog TV in the US from February 17th to June 12th, failed to secure the two-thirds support in the House necessary for its approval.  Current estimates suggest that around 6.5m households are unprepared for the switchover, which will see older TVs requiring digital convertor boxes in order to continue receiving broadcasts.

However the US government's subsidy scheme - which involved $40 vouchers toward the cost of a DTV convertor box - recently ran dry, with more than a million people estimated to be still waiting for their discount.  Many of the Republicans who blocked the delay bill are said to believe that simply boosting funding for the subsidy program will alleviate the problem, with no postponement in the switchover required.

Barack Obama's support for the proposal, and the subsequent party-line voting observed, has been blamed for the failure of the bill, which Republican Joe Barton suggested could have been passed if it had been presented as a bipartisan effort.  Instead, many democrats, commentators and analysts portrayed it as an opportunity for the new Obama presidency to "bring order to a mismanaged process", blaming the previous presidency for the subsidy scheme's failure.

Technology groups and manufacturers (and, we have to admit, the SlashGear team) are likely to be pleased at the failure of the bill.  The delay would have unnecessarily confused the issue, not to mention postponing Verizon Wireless' and AT&T's adoption of the vacated analog TV spectrum, which is likely to be used for next-gen high speed networks.


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