U.S. Representative G. K. Butterfield
1st District of North Carolina
For Release: Immediate
Date: June 11, 2009
Contact: Ken Willis
Phone: (202) 225-3101
Butterfield Wants DTV Antenna Assistance
Washington, D.C. – With an estimated 2.8 million people still completely unprepared for the digital television conversion and many more not fully prepared, Congressman G. K. Butterfield wants unused converter box coupon funds to be made available for antennas.
“Many people still don’t realize that the converter box alone may not be sufficient to receive the new signal, especially in rural areas,” Butterfield said. “Digital transmissions are different than analog signals, so viewers who were able to tune in a weak analog signal may get nothing but a blank screen with the new digital ones. In order to receive the signal, many people will need a stronger antenna.”
Unlike analog signals, which when weak or obstructed may be received with fuzzy yet watchable reception, digital signals are received either perfectly or not at all. Viewers experiencing the "digital cliff effect" will likely require an antenna modification. The FCC has estimated that about 5% of over-the-air viewers may need a new antenna due to the "digital cliff effect," equivalent to about 1% of all households with televisions.
With this in mind, Butterfield has sponsored a bill that would create a coupon program similar to the digital-to-analog television converter box coupon program. Under the legislation, consumers could receive a $40 coupon that could be used toward the purchase of a new antenna until September 30, 2009.
The program would be funded with unused or expired converter box coupons, which are offered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Under that program, consumers can receive up to two $40 coupons between January 1, 2008, and July 31, 2009, and must be used within 90 days after issuance towards the purchase of a stand-alone device used solely for digital-to-analog conversion.
The $1.5 billion converter box coupon program is funded largely through receipts from the auction of the analog television spectrum.
On June 3, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held its final Open Commission Meeting before the June 12 DTV transition. Witnesses indicated that consumer DTV education and outreach efforts are accelerating, that digital signal reception and antenna issues could still be a problem for some viewers, and that the supply of converter box coupons and converter boxes should be sufficient.
Since February, when the federal government postponed the transition for three months, the number of households that are completely unready has been cut in half – from 5.8 million to 2.8 million homes, according to estimates by the Nielsen Company.
“Given the role television plays in most people’s day-to-day lives, it is important to help make sure people are ready for the enormous change,” Butterfield said.
After June 12, 2009, households with over-the-air analog-only televisions will no longer be able to receive full-power television service unless they either buy a digital-to-analog converter box to hook up to their analog television set; acquire a digital television or an analog television equipped with a digital tuner; or subscribe to cable, satellite, or telephone company television services, which are expected to provide for the conversion of digital signals to their analog customers.
Analog broadcast television signals, which have been broadcast for over 60 years, will cease, and full-power television stations will broadcast exclusively digital signals over channels 2 through 51.