Transition to Digital Gets Closer

By STEPHEN LABATON The New York Times December 20, 2005

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 - The House of Representatives moved early Monday to provide millions of households with coupons to buy equipment to keep their television sets working after broadcasters switch from analog to digital signals. But consumer groups warned that the new law would still impose significant costs on viewers.

The House measure, including a mandate to complete the transition to digital television by early 2009, was included in budget legislation approved shortly before sunrise by a vote of 212 to 206. The provisions, awaiting Senate approval, are of enormous importance to the television, cable and wireless telephone industries.

As part of the transition, the legislation would provide each household with up to two coupons worth $40 each for converter boxes to attach to analog television sets so they are not obsolete once broadcasters surrender their analog licenses on Feb. 17, 2009, as the new law would require. Not coincidentally, the date was selected to fall two weeks after the Super Bowl and a month before the widely watched National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament.

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Monty Solomon
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