After years of preparation the Federal Government is by all indications going to delay the mandatory conversion to digital television. There are millions of people who are not ready for the conversion. They still receive their television signal by antenna. The governments delay will push the conversion until June.
Early last week the United States House of Representatives took up a bill dealing with the delay. The language of the bill required a two-thirds majority vote to pass. The bill did not get the required vote and failed.
Republicans in the house blocked from getting the required vote, though a majority of lawmakers voted for the delay.
A bill was introduced in the United States Senate dealing with the delay. The Senate bill passed, postponing the conversion from Feb. 17 to June 12.
The Senate bill will be sent to the House for passage. This version of the bill is expected to be taken up late this week for passage by a simple majority.
The original House version of the bill allowed for no amendments and little debate in anticipation of a passage. Since the House will be voting on the Senate version of a conversion delay bill, amendments will be allowed. If amendments are added to the bill by the House, the bill will then have to sent back to the Senate for passage with House amendments.
The proposed legislation carries with it $650 million to fund additional converter box coupons.
The converter box program hit its spending ceiling in early January. With no funding left for the program a waiting list has been created of those wanting a $40 coupon.
Once the voucher has been mailed by the government it expires in 90 days. The voucher program is set up so that when one voucher expires those funds are supposed to be available for someone else.
Those wanting vouchers after the fund is depleted will have to wait until funding allocated to an expired voucher becomes available.
Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) did not support the delay. The Congresswoman does not support pushing the deadline back. We have been promising first responders this airwave space for 10 years, we need to make good on that promise, Bruce Pfaff, Schmidts press secretary, said. Providing another $650 million dollars to buy boxes, we do not see that as the problem. The federal government, Broadcasters Association and local television stations have spent tens of millions of dollars on this already. They are ready to switch it over. At the end of the day, moving it to June is probably not going to create any better of a situation.
Congressman Charlie Wilson (D-St. Clairsville) has made public statements in support of the delay and said he plans to vote for it when it comes to a vote which is anticipated on Wednesday.
A delay in the transition is being closely watched by telephone companies AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications, Inc., which together reportedly paid $16 billion to use the spectrum freed up by the switch.
Time is a factor when trying for a delay. As of Tuesday there will be 14 days until the original conversion date.
President Barack Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday that Obama will sign the legislation if and when it passes.