After weeks of debate, Congress is giving consumers four more months to prepare for the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting.
The House voted on Wednesday to postpone the shutdown of analog TV signals to June 12, to address growing concerns that too many Americans won't be ready by the Feb. 17 deadline that Congress set three years ago.
The change is being mandated because digital signals are more efficient than analog ones. Ending analog broadcasts will free up valuable space in the US' airwaves for commercial wireless services and emergency-response networks.
Opponents of a delay warned, however, that the move will confuse consumers, create added costs for TV stations that will continue broadcasting both analog and digital signals for four more months and burden wireless companies and public safety agencies waiting for the airwaves that will be vacated by the switchover.
The Consumer Electronics Association, meanwhile, is warning that a delay could result in a shortage of converter boxes that translate digital signals back into analog ones for older TVs. Manufacturers and retailers have planned inventory based on a Feb. 17 transition date.