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Congress OKs June delay on digital TV changeover

Queens couch potatoes will now have extra time to make sure their TVs are ready for future broadcasts.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Feb. 4 to delay the transition from analog to digital signals from Feb. 17 to June 12. Nearly 300,000 city households are not ready to view the upgraded television transmissions, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D−Forest Hills) said.

“We want to make sure everyone is prepared. With only two weeks until the Feb. 17 conversion dater, many [would have been] left in the dark,” he said in a statement.

The Senate passed the bill two weeks ago to extend the deadline, after President Obama implored Congress to give viewers more time to upgrade their sets.

The digital signal transition will give American viewers better picture and sound quality. Homeowners with television sets purchased after 2005 and those who subscribe to cable and satellite services are ready to accept the new signals.

All other viewers must purchase a special signal converter box, which costs between $45 to $75, to watch their programs. The federal government initially offered $40 coupons to subsidize the purchase of the converters, but dropped the offer in November due to budget cuts.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D−N.Y.) said more than 110,000 residents are waiting for their coupons to purchase the equipment and urged his fellow leaders to use the delay to get viewers their rebates.

“The federal government botched this transition and they should be the ones to fix it, and an improved coupon program and this delay should help to rectify the situation,” he said in a statement.

The President was expected to sign the bill, according to Schumer’s office.

Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick, who attended a meeting last month at Borough Hall to learn about the signal switch, praised the government for delaying the transition because she said some senior citizens in her southeast Queens district have not purchased the necessary hardware.

“There [would]be a lot of households without television if it had stayed with Feb. 17. I know some folks had the coupons for the converter box, but couldn’t cash them in,” she said.

For more information on the DTV transition, visit www.dtv.gov or call 1−888−CALL−FCC.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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