WASHINGTON – Congress voted Wednesday to give consumers four more months to prepare for the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting.
The House voted 264-158 to postpone the shutdown of analog TV signals to June 12, to address growing concerns that too many Americans won't be ready in time for the Feb. 17 deadline that Congress had set three years ago.
The Senate passed the measure unanimously last week and the bill now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The delay is a victory for the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, who maintain that the previous administration mismanaged efforts to ensure that all consumers — particularly poor, rural and minority Americans — will be prepared for the switchover.
The Nielsen Co. estimates that more than 6.5 million U.S. households that rely on analog TV sets to pick up over-the-air broadcast signals still are not ready. People who subscribe to cable or satellite TV or have a newer TV with a digital tuner will not be affected.
"The passage of this bipartisan legislation means that millions of Americans will have the time they need to prepare for the conversion," the White House said in a statement. "We will continue to work with Congress to improve the information and assistance available to American consumers in advance of June 12, especially those in the most vulnerable communities."
Wednesday's vote came one week after House Republicans blocked the bill when it was in a special fast-track vote that required two-thirds support to pass.
This time, the bill passed the House under a regular floor vote, which only requires a simple majority.