DTV Date: February or June?

January 16, 2009 3:16:48 PM PST
Lawmakers are battling it out over whether to delay the DTV switch until June. Democrats proposed a bill Friday that called for the digital switch to be pushed to June 12th instead of February 17th. But late in the day, Republican senators blocked that proposed legislation.On the heels of the battle, a Republican FCC Commissioner was in Raleigh. Commission Robert McDowell said FCC is doing everything to make sure they're ready for whatever the date may be, and we all need to do the same right now.

“Folks should not worry about what's going on with Washington. It is confusing go out and get a converter box today and then they don't have to worry about it anymore,” said McDowell.

While the funding for the converter box coupon program has run out and 2.1 million people are on the waiting list for coupons, you can still buy a converter box. The cost is between $40.00 - $80.00. McDowell also admitted the FCC call center is ill-prepared, but says there's a simple fix.

“My concern with the call center hard to get through, or you get a busy signal, or never get a live operator and that can be fixed within 48 hours,” he said.

For three years, we've been told to be ready for the switch come February 17 so why all the problems now just weeks away from the target date? McDowell says with a new administration, comes new concerns.

“Fear in administration 28 days after administration takes office this could be very messy for those left behind and you might have some angry upset consumers. I think folks want to minimize the anger and if is anger deflect it elsewhere away from themselves,” he said.

McDowell warns the new proposal to push the date back to June 12th, doesn't necessarily mean no problems.

“It’s hard to tell how many people unprepared, but regardless of when analog cutoff date is there will be a certain percent of population unprepared. So there will have to be a mopping up action if congress pushes off the date further," he said.

Commissioner MMcDowell estimates about 4 percent to 5 percent of the population will be left in the dark. He says the biggest challenge after the switch will be helping those consumers.

It should be noted theat that McDowell is a Republican and the people pushing for the delay to June are Democrats. .

After Republicans blocked today's bill, Democrat senators say they will try to pass this measure again next week. For now, the date is still February 17th.


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