Legislation to clarify America's digital television switchover deadline is contained in a bill passed last week by the House of Representatives.

The House plan require all broadcasters to cease analog transmissions by December 31, 2008. It also makes provision for $830 million (€706m; £483m) in subsidies to help poorer households cover the cost of converter boxes.

However, the bill conflicts with proposals put forward by the US Senate, which posits a later switchoff date of April 7, 2009 and a $3 billion converter box subsidy. Consumer groups fear the House's comparitive parsomony will limit aid to around 25% of poorer homes.

Says Jeannine Kenney of Consumers Union: "The funding level provided is woefully inadequate to ensure that consumers aren't forced to reach into their wallets to facilitate the government's mandated transition to digital television."

Funding for converter boxes will come, in part, from the auction of the analog spectrum, expected to raise around $10 billion for the federal government.

The boxes are expected to cost between $50-$60. The bills in both chambers call for the government to pay about $40, with the consumer picking up the rest of the conversion costs.

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