DTV Delay Alternatives

We reported last week about President-elect Barack Obama's desire to postpone the DTV transition, mainly because the poor and elderly weren't prepared. Now, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is suggesting alternatives to keep the transition on track for a February 17 switch.

According to Gary Shapiro, president of the CEA, “A change in the date could engender skepticism, confusion and distrust the next time government asks the public to take specific actions around a specific event.”

He argues that awareness is almost 100% right now, so delaying it will do nothing to make the transition more successful.

“A delay will require significant unbudgeted expenditures from the public and private sectors. Resources would have to be found for a new national public education campaign centered on the new date. NTIA [The National Telecommunications and Information Administration] would incur ongoing administrative costs to oversee the coupon program. Broadcasters would be forced to extend leases on their analog towers (to the extent extensions are even possible) and power their analog transmitters at a cost of up to tens of thousands of dollars per month, per station,” he said.

Keep reading for the 5 steps sent to the Prez-elect.

“(1) [Get] a fix of accounting issues such as the anti-deficiency rules that are preventing NTIA from sending out coupons despite available funding. Only 19 million of the 33.5 million available coupons have been redeemed.

“(2) Examine total funding for the coupon program and explore any need for additional funding, for example, to send coupons out via first class mail to eliminate three week delivery delays.

“(3) [Eliminate] the 90-day expiration date on coupons, which would put more coupons into use.

“(4) Explore additional funding for government call centers and funding to local grassroots groups to answer questions about the transition.

“(5) Should the government determine that the supply of converter boxes will not meet demand, examine permitting use of converter box coupons to purchase access to digital television either through pay service (cable, satellite or fiber) or credit toward the purchase of a limited-feature or low-cost digital television.”

Do you think that delaying now will help, or will it just create even more confusion?  —Leslie Shapiro