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Senate: Start digital TV in June

Associated Press / January 27, 2009
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WASHINGTON - The Senate yesterday voted unanimously to postpone the transition from analog to digital television broadcasting by four months, to June 12.

The vote is a victory for the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, who have been pushing for a delay amid growing concerns that too many Americans won't be ready for a Feb. 17 changeover.

Nielsen Co. estimates more than 6.5 million households that rely on analog sets to pick up over-the-air signals could see their TV sets go dark next month if the transition is not postponed.

The issue now goes to the House.

President Obama this month called for a delay after the Commerce Department hit a $1.34 billion funding limit for government coupons that consumers may use to help pay for digital TV converter boxes. The boxes, $40 to $80 each, translate digital signals back into analog ones for older TVs.

The Commerce Department is now sending out new coupons only as older, unredeemed ones expire and free up more money for the program.

In 2005, Congress required the switch to digital signals to free up wireless spectrum for commercial wireless services and emergency-response networks.

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