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CU commends bill to delay digital TV transition

Consumers Union Commends Legislation to Delay Digital TV Transition
Until June 12, Urges Quick Passage and Implementation

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 16, 2009 — Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, commends the introduction of legislation in Congress to delay the transition from analog to digital TV broadcasts until June 12.
Sen. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the incoming chairmen of the Senate and House commerce committees, have both introduced legislation to help consumers with the DTV transition.
“Without a delay, more than 10 million consumers that depend on free, over-the-air television could lose their access to vital news and emergency information on February 17,” said Joel Kelsey, policy analyst for Consumers Union. “The people most likely to lose television service are among the most vulnerable, including the elderly and the poor. We’re very pleased to see legislation in Congress to address the problem.”
The federal government mandated the digital TV switch to free up more room in the wireless spectrum. The government auctioned off the old analog frequencies to wireless broadband companies for $19 billion. Consumers who use “rabbit ear” or rooftop antennas must upgrade their TVs for digital reception. The simplest upgrade is a converter box, which generally costs between $40 and $80. To help offset the cost, the government offered $40 coupons, but the program ran out of funds six weeks before the transition. In the two weeks since then, more than two million requests have gone on a waiting list – and that list is growing longer each day.
Following Consumers Union’s call for a delay in the DTV transition date last week, the incoming Obama administration asked key congressional leaders to quickly adopt such legislation.
Commenting on the DTV delay legislation introduced on Thursday, Kelsey said:
“The government coupon program has been mired in problems. Millions of consumers have been stuck with expired coupons. This legislation will allow enough time to get money in the coupon program so that the most vulnerable consumers don’t have to pay for the big switch out of their own pockets.”
Consumers Union urges members of Congress to move quickly and in a bipartisan fashion to approve this important legislation as quickly as possible.
More information about the digital TV transition is available on the Consumer Reports web site at www.ConsumerReports.org/dtv

Media contact:
David Butler, Consumers Union, 202-462-6262
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.