US Lawmakers Wrestle with Digital Signal Switch

31 October 2005

Legislation to switch off the analog television signal in the US is clouded in confusion.

Hot on the heels of the Senate Commerce Committee's decision ten days ago to set April 7, 2009 as the digital switchover deadline, the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee has proposed an earlier date of December 31, 2008.

The Senate committee has recommended a $3 billion (€2.5bn; £1.69bn) subsidy to help convert an estimated 73 million TV sets that presently rely on antennas to receive signals instead of cable or satellite dish.

The House bill is proposing a $40 coupon towards the cost of a converter box, leaving viewers to pay around $20 of the total cost. The scheme provides for two coupons per household, but people will have to request them, potentially discriminating against poorer homes.

The Senate proposal, on the other hand, would automatically send two $40 coupons to each home, irrespective of householders' incomes.

The money for the boxes will come from an auction of the analog radio spectrum, estimated to raise around $10bn.

Once the bill clears the House and Senate, the operational differences will be ironed out by a joint committee before becoming law.

Data sourced from USA Today Online; additional content by WARC staff