President-elect Barack Obama has asked Congress to delay a planned switch from analog to digital television broadcasting, saying many consumers relying on analog TV sets are not ready for the change, set to take effect February 17.
If the switch is delayed, it could mean a longer wait for the opening up of “white spaces,” the unused TV spectrum that would be made available due to the switch from analog to digital. The FCC voted in November to make the white spaces available to the public, citing the potential to improve wireless broadband access.
The Commerce Department has run out of money for coupons to subsidize digital TV converter boxes for consumers, which are needed for those using analog sets to continue to receive broadcast signals, Obama transition team co-chair John Podesta noted in a letter to lawmakers.
The FCC also announced last week its selection of 12 grassroots organizations and local agencies to help viewers prepare for the digital transition. The agency awarded $8.4 million in contracts to organizations dedicated to serving populations most at risk in the transition, including senior citizens, people with disabilities and Spanish-speaking households.