RALEIGH, N.C. — U.S. Congressman G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C. is urging the Federal Communications Commission to delay next month's digital TV conversion, saying too many people could be without a television signal.
TV stations across the country are scheduled to stop sending analog signals on Feb. 17, the date federal law mandates them to solely broadcast in digital format.
“With the digital television conversion date looming just a month away it is clear that too many people across the country are unprepared and would be left in the dark,” Butterfield said in a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.
During a town hall meeting in Raleigh on Wednesday, Martin said he wants to proceed with the transition as planned.
Butterfield says approximately 15 percent of households nationwide still have TVs only equipped for analog reception and that they would be vulnerable in the event of a natural disaster and emergency.
In his district alone, Butterfield states in his letter, an estimated 81,000 households depend on over-the-air signals to receive their information about local and national news as well as disasters and emergencies. Butterfield represents the state's 1st Congressional District, which includes Roanoke Rapids, Rocky Mount and Goldsboro.
The federal government started a coupon subsidy program last year to help individuals pay for analog-to-digital converter boxes for their TVs. Coupons are still available on a limited basis now because the government has exhausted Congressional funding.
More than an estimated 2.1 million people are on the waiting list, Butterfield said.
“Given the circumstances and vulnerabilities, the transition date must be extended,” Butterfield said.
The transition has been planned for more than a year. The Obama administration also wants a delay; Martin puts the likelihood of one at 50 percent.
“I think any kind of delay is going to confuse consumers,” he said.