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Consumers get stuck with cost to keep TVs working under digital bill

Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2005
Consumers Get Stuck with More of Cost to Keep Their TVs Working Under House Digital TV Bill
Commerce Committee rejects amendments to give consumers more relief

(Washington, D.C.) – The House Commerce Committee today rejected amendments that would help consumers cover the bulk of the cost of keeping their televisions working after the digital TV transition. Instead, the panel was expected later today to pass a bill that will cover only one-fourth of the households with analog TVs – leaving the rest with older sets to pay up to $60 or more per TV to keep them working after the transition.
“The House Republican bill forces millions of consumers to shell out money to keep their perfectly good television sets working due to a government policy,” said Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union.
“Considering the government will be getting at least $10 billion from the sale of public airwaves because of the transition, why are some members of Congress sticking consumers with most of the cost?” Kenney added.
The House bill provides only $830 million to help consumers cover the cost of buying converter boxes to keep their TVs working after the digital transition. That amount would cover only about 10.5 million of the estimated 42 million households with analog sets.
House Democrats offered amendments today that would have covered all of the 42 million households that still have analog TV sets and need a converter box. But the amendments were rejected on party line vote. Last week, the Senate passed its version of the bill, setting aside $3 billion from the $10 billion raised by the auction of public airwaves – an amount which will cover most of the affected households.
The House measure would provide a $40 voucher toward the cost of a converter box, with a limit of two per household. However, the vouchers would be offered on a first-come, first-served basis and the bill provides no ceiling on the price of basic converter boxes, which are expected to cost at least $60 each or more. As a result, many consumers will be vulnerable to excessive out-of-pocket costs.
“No consumer should be stuck with the costs of this government-mandated digital TV transition, particularly giving the ample funding raised by the public airwave auction,” Kenney said.


Jeannine Kenney, (202) 957-1013
Susan Herold (202) 462-6262