US consumer groups want the federal government to pay out $4 billion (€3.3bn; £2.21bn) for converter boxes that TV viewers will need after the planned digital signal switchover.

The timetable for the change is still undecided, but December 31, 2008 appears to be the current best guess.

As a result, say consumer groups, around 80 million analog-only TV sets across the nation will be unable to receive programs. The cost of converter boxes is around $50 each.

Says Gene Kimmelman, public policy director of the Consumers Union: "Consumers will already have to bear the inconvenience of acquiring new equipment to keep their otherwise perfectly good TVs working. They shouldn't also have to fork over $50 per set."

Kimmelman says the money should come from the sell-off of the analogue spectrum, which is expected to raise around $10bn from commercial wireless companies and public safety agencies.

The Bush administration, however, wants most of the money raised to help plug the massive federal budget deficit.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff