Conversion from analog to digital signals approaching

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives defeated a bill that would have delayed the transition of analog television signals to a new digital format until June 12. Regardless, Pagosa Country TV viewers needn’t worry about preparing for the change, whenever it comes.

Monday, the Senate voted to delay the switch from Feb. 17 to June 12, to allow consumers receiving over-the-air signals more time to obtain coupons to apply toward the purchase of a converter box. Until Jan. 5, when a government subsidy program ran out of money, eligible households received two $40 coupons. At last count, there were approximately 2.6 million people still on a waiting list to receive coupons.

A converter box transforms older analog signals to digital — a move mandated by Congress to provide public safety officials more spectrum during emergencies, while also dramatically improving picture and sound clarity. Once the transition is complete, public safety organizations will have immediate access to old TV airwaves.

According to Senate Commerce Chairman John Rockefeller, the country is not ready to make the exchange. In fact, the Nielsen Co. estimates that 6.5 million poor, elderly and rural households relying on antennas are not prepared to receive digital signals.

The Obama Administration supported the delay, but House Republicans blocked it on Wednesday. House Democrats may attempt passage again next week, but if the measure passes, it’ll have to go back to the Senate for further consideration.

Here in the southern Rockies, television signals generally reach consumers via cable, satellite or a free over-the-air translator. As a result, local TV viewers needn’t worry about the switch.

The reason is simple. All cable and satellite providers have automatically made the change for their subscribers, and Low Power, Class A and Translator TV stations are not required to make the move at all.

Therefore, Pagosa Country TV viewers need not worry about coupons or a converter box. Only part-time residents with homes elsewhere in the country — and only those that receive over-the-air TV signals — will need a converter.