By Johnny Jackson
Analog television watchers can rest easy this spring, after the U.S. House and Senate approved a four-month delay of the nationwide digital TV transition, just two weeks before the transition was scheduled to take place.
Instead of the previously scheduled Feb. 17 transition, officials will delay the mandatory broadcast switch from analog to digital signals until June 12.
"Nearly everyone is aware that all TV stations will soon be broadcasting solely in digital, but millions of American households are still not ready for the switch," said Fred Elsberry, Jr., president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of metro Atlanta.
The February transition was expected to leave more than 6.5 million Americans temporarily without television broadcasts during the spring season television line-up. In June, however, fewer people are watching the networks that are available in analog broadcasts.
"We've got a lot of work to do," said Michael Coops, acting chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. "I welcome Congressional passage of the DTV Delay Act. It has long been clear to me - and it's even clearer since I became acting FCC chairman two weeks ago - that the country is not prepared to undertake a nationwide transition in 12 days without unacceptably high consumer dislocation."
Coops said the additional four months will give the commission more time to implement its converter box coupon program and consumer outreach.
"Moving forward, we need to re-establish the converter box coupon program, make sure we are prepared to answer the flood of phone calls we can clearly anticipate, and establish a field operation to provide on-the-ground assistance to those who need it," said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.
The House took up the question last week but under a special procedure that required more than a simple majority. Wednesday, it went through a normal vote. The Senate passed the measure unanimously last week. The legislation now has to be signed by President Barack Obama, who is expected to approve the bill.
"I know we will do all that we can to minimize the inevitable disruption and confusion this transition will cause," said FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell. "In the meantime, let's all stay on message: If you need a converter box, get it today and hook it up today, and start enjoying the benefits of digital television today."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.