We're sorry that millions of Americans are not prepared for the switch from analog to digital television broadcasts. But delaying the switch would have caused too many headaches and placed a heavy financial burden on broadcasters.
The Obama administration supported a bill that would have delayed the transition from its original date of Feb. 17 to June 12. The idea was to give consumers more time to buy either digital-ready TV sets or converter boxes that would allow their analog sets to pick up digital transmissions.
An estimated 6.5 million U.S. households that rely on analog television sets to pick up over-the-air broadcast signals remain at risk of seeing their screens go black on Feb. 17. Nearly 3.2 million people are on a waiting list for $40 government coupons to help defray the cost of a converter box that would allow them to view digital broadcasts.
On Wednesday, House Republicans joined to defeat the bill that would have delayed the switchover. The 258-168 vote failed to clear the two-thirds threshold needed for passage. Only 22 Republicans voted for the bill, while 155 voted against it.
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We would have more sympathy for TV viewers likely to be left in the lurch if the plan to make the transition to digital broadcasting hadn't been in the works for years. It was approved in 2005.
Delaying the transition would be extremely expensive for broadcasters who pay tens of thousands of dollars a month to operate both analog and digital signals. A delay also would burden wireless companies and public-safety agencies waiting for portions of the wireless spectrum that will be freed up by the switch to digital.
House Democrats might come back with a bill that would require only a simple majority to pass. Meanwhile, however, Congress could alleviate the problem greatly by simply issuing more coupons for converter boxes.
As for the millions of people who have been dragging their feet: Get moving. You still have 20 days to buy a new TV set or get a converter.
Consumers have had years to prepare for the switch from analog to digital TV.