Washington—New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy is tentatively supporting a delay of the Feb. 17 digital television transition, arguing that a $1.34 billion converter box coupon program has collapsed and needs additional funds rapidly.
McCarthy sent a letter to all House colleagues Friday to highlight current problems with the transition, which requires all full-power TV stations to turn off their analog signals at midnight on Feb. 17, an event that could leave millions of viewers in the dark.
The Commerce Department on Sunday stopped issuing $40 converter box coupons and created a waiting list that includes 1.1 million request for coupons. However, about 300,000 coupons expire each week, which Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration can recycle to shrink the waiting list.
"With the Feb.17th deadline fast approaching, I ask that you join me in my efforts to alert Speaker Pelosi to this growing problem, and urge additional funding for DTV converter box coupons and a possible delay to the start of the DTV transition in an appropriate legislative vehicle," McCarthy said.
Consumers with analog TV sets need a digital-to-analog converter box to view digital TV signals with an antenna.
NTIA has funding for 33.5 million coupons and has mailed 43 million. About 18 million coupons have been used.
On Thursday, the incoming Obama administration announced its support for delaying the transition but without proposing a new strategy. McCarthy's letter didn't mention Obama's support for a delay.