The Feb. 18, 2009, transition date was part of a massive budget reconciliation bill approved over the weekend in the House. The bill passed by a vote of 216-206.
The House bill authorizes the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to launch a "digital-to-analog converter box program" to allow viewers without DTV receivers to continue receiving broadcast signals. The bill allocates up to $990 million for the program, which would allow U.S. households to obtain up to two, $40 converter-box coupons.
The measure was initially approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Panel Chairman Joe Barton, R-Texas, said in a statement that “the DTV legislation brings needed certainty to allow consumers, broadcasters, cable and satellite operators, manufacturers, retailers, and government to prepare for the end of the transition."
The Senate voted last month to set April 7, 2009, as the deadline for U.S. broadcasters to switch to digital broadcasts. Lawmakers want to use unused analog TV spectrum for broadband wireless and public-safety applications.