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Congress Bungles Cable Converter Coupons

From the back pages of the Washington Post:

A sample TV converter box coupon. U.S. consumers who wait too long to request government coupons to subsidize converter boxes for the digital television transition in February may come up empty-handed, a regulator has warned.

Congress Urged To Postpone Nation’s Switch To Digital TV

By Kim Hart
Thursday, January 8, 2009; Page D01

Consumers Union is urging Congress to delay the nation’s transition to digital television, saying the program to help TV viewers prepare for the switch next month has been underfunded and poorly implemented.

In a letter sent last night to President Bush, President-elect Barack Obama, House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the consumer advocacy group said Congress should push back the transition "until a plan is in place to minimize the number of consumers who will lose TV signals."

The request comes two days after the federal government said it has run out of money to provide coupons to help offset the cost of converter boxes. Analog television sets that rely on "rabbit ear" or rooftop antennas to receive broadcasts will need a converter box to get a picture after Feb. 17, when all full-powered television stations will stop airing analog signals and move to digital-only broadcasts.

Lawmakers are looking for ways to make sure consumers who need coupons get them in time. "But with the date looming, moving the date back certainly warrants further discussion and may be a wise choice," said Daniel Reilly, a spokesman for Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet.

As of Sunday, consumers requesting $40 vouchers to help purchase a converter box are being placed on a waiting list, and federal officials warn that TV watchers may not receive the coupons in time for the switch.

A coupon is not needed to purchase a converter box. But with boxes costing $50 to $80 in retail stores, Congress allocated $1.34 billion to provide coupons to help offset the price. Consumers who have a newer digital television or who subscribe to cable or satellite service will not lose programming…

"Millions of consumers could now be forced to spend their own money to navigate this federally mandated transition," the letter says. "This economic climate is not the right time to ask consumers to dig deeper into their own pockets to pay for the miscalculation by the federal government. "

Obama’s transition team said yesterday that it has not weighed in on whether it would support a delay. Members of Congress are trying to find additional funds for the coupon program and may consider waiving a rule to allow NTIA to issue more coupons without waiting for others to expire.

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission announced $8.4 million in grants to 12 community-based organizations. The grants are intended to reach out to consumers who are most at risk of losing television signals — senior citizens, people with disabilities, low-income and non-English-speaking households.

But Consumers Union said it is concerned there is not enough time left to reach all at-risk consumers. The group also questioned the ability of the FCC’s call centers to handle a flood of calls from confused television-watchers on Feb. 17.

Congress can’t even manage to fund and distribute coupons for cable boxes, and yet they think they can run the nation’s healthcare – and everything else.

Indeed, what does Congress do well besides give itself pay raises?

Still, one can’t help but worry about all of these “at-risk consumers” – meaning the poor and minorities who are always hit hardest.

The humanity.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, January 8th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

14 Responses to “Congress Bungles Cable Converter Coupons”

  1. proreason says:

    More government in action.

    With no competition, no incentive to improve, no layoffs, they can’t handle the simplest functions competantly. And to top that, their bungled decisions affect millions. Witness….sub-prime lending.

    All beaurocracies are equally incompetant. The only reason we think Communist or third-world beaurocracies are worse is that they only have beaurocracies, no free enterprise.

    Coming…..Health Care by beauroocrats, Auto Industry by beaurocrats, Energy by beaurocrats.

    But Obamy and Teddy aren’t concerned…..they will always get tip-top service…just like the Russian Commisars.

  2. Sal says:

    Everything wrong with this country starts with Congress. The Bailout disaster happened because of Congress’ rush to “do something.” The disaster of a stimulus package will happen because of Congress’ rush to “do something.”

    It will never stop until we get Term limits in place.

  3. Liberals Demise says:

    And to think they what to handle our health care. They can’t even balance a check book. I’m with Sal on this one….Term Limits not Professional Politicans!!

  4. conant says:

    I think it was the Mayans who at the end of every year threw their leader on an alter- cut his living heart out with a stone knife and fed it the the new guy appointed to be leader for the new year(only) Perhaps they were on to something

  5. proreason says:

    Karl Rove puctures the lie that Bush caused the economic crisis by not regulating enough.

    In fact Bush proposed reforms to the GSAs in 2001 that were enacted in 2008, with Laurel and Hardy (Franks and Dodd) voting yes, after the disaster had wrecked the economy.

    “When Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama, then chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, pushed for comprehensive GSE reform in 2005, Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut successfully threatened a filibuster. Later, after Fannie and Freddie collapsed, Mr. Dodd asked, “Why weren’t we doing more?” He then voted for the Bush reforms that he once called “ill-advised.”

    But Mr. Dodd wasn’t the only Democrat to heap abuse on the Bush reforms. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts defended Fannie and Freddie as “fundamentally sound” and labeled the president’s proposals as “inane.” He later voted for the reforms. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York dismissed Mr. Bush’s “safety and soundness concerns” as “a straw man.” …..
    Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute and Charles Calomiris of the Columbia Business School suggest $1 trillion of this debt was subprime and “liar loans,” almost all bought between 2005 and 2007.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123137220550562585.html

  6. When did watching television become a “right”?

    Moreover, when did the government decide it was its duty – and not the free market’s – to decide to mandate technology?

    Remember, they’re not only doing this with televisions and lightbulbs, but your health care.

  7. BillK says:

    More fearmongering from the Obama administration:

    Obama Seeks DTV Switch Delay

    By Ira Teinowitz

    President-elect Barack Obama is urging a delay in the Feb. 17 switch to digital TV signals.

    In a letter today to senators and congressmen, John Podesta, co-chair of the Obama transition team, said questions about converter-box coupons and other issues warrant a delay.

    “All of the above leads to a conclusion that the Feb. 17 cutoff date for analog signals should be reconsidered and extended,” Mr. Podesta wrote. “With coupons unavailable, support and education insufficient and the most vulnerable Americans exposed, I urge you to consider a change to the legislatively mandated analog cutoff date.”

    In the letter, sent to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Podesta suggested Congress simply taking action to provide additional coupons isn’t sufficient.

    “The funds provided to support the conversion are woefully inadequate. Coupon demand appears headed to a level that will exceed that authorized by Congress. In addition, the government’s programs to assist consumers through the upheaval of the conversion are inadequately funded. There is insufficient support for the problem consumers (particularly low-income, rural and elderly Americans) will experience as a result of the analog signal cutoff.”

    The letter also said President-elect Obama’s Economic Recovery Package includes some funding to address the issues.

    U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, ranking Republican on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, called the delay request “pure panic.”

    “How disappointing. We don’t need to bail out the DTV transition program because it isn’t failing, and reintroducing uncertainty to the switch will make things worse instead of better,” said the Texas Republican.

    He said the “right thing to do” is to change the accounting rules that currently prevent the Department of Commerce from issuing additional coupons, even though it knows many coupons will go unredeemed.

    Ditching the deadline and slathering on more millions of taxpayer dollars, however, is just panic,” he said.

    U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., former chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s telecom committee and still a member of the panel, said President-elect Obama’s request for a delay should be examined promptly.

    “President-elect Obama’s call to move back the digital television transition date highlights the vulnerability of millions of Americans to the impending analog signal shutoff. It also underscores the need for prompt Congressional examination of his proposal,” he said.

    “Moving the transition date entails significant logistical challenges. However, the prospect of leaving millions of consumers in the dark requires Congress to immediately consider the feasibility of the President-elect’s proposal,” Rep. Markey said. “In addition, Congress should move quickly to address the needs of the millions of American currently on a waiting list for coupons to purchase converter boxes.”

    Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said it was “too early” to call for a delay to the digital television changeover.

    “I am concerned about moving the date of the upcoming digital television transition,” she said. “We need to focus on a solution to the coupon shortage. Shifting the date this close to the transition, without a sound plan to share information about the new transition date, will likely result in significant confusion.” …

    http://www.tvweek.com/news/2009/01/obama_seeks_dtv_switch_delay.php

    We knew this would happen, and it’s just the beginning…

  8. JohnMG says:

    It’s a shame this “crisis” didn’t happen back in the summer. Just think of the millions of impressionable ‘sheeple’ who wouldn’t have been subjected to the incessant barrage of propaganda from Obama on their TV sets. Why, they wouldn’t have known how to vote.

    Here we have a crisis that ISN”T a crisis. Do you mean to tell me you can’t live without a TV? If that’s the case, you’re pathetic. But there is something more sinister going on here, so perhaps revisiting a quote from one of our founding fathers is in order: James Madison said,

    “Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant.”

    Unscrupulous politicians from every government that has ever existed have always exploited any disaster to increase their power and to neutralize and marginalize their opponents. This in-coming lot are slick–very slick, indeed, and deft practitioners of the dark art!

    • proreason says:

      “Unscrupulous politicians from every government that has ever existed have always exploited any disaster ”

      Rahm the Imapaler is famously quoted as saying something like “no crisis should be let to go to waste”.

      We see that philosophy in action at this very moment.

  9. BigOil says:

    Could we be missing the silver lining in this dark cloud? When the poor – that are the hardest hit – suddenly find themselves sitting in front of a blank idiot box, they may decide to go to work instead.

    I believe working has been known to result in the poor occasionally reaching middle class status.

  10. David says:

    How incredibly dumb! If the One is so concerned over his sheeple loosing their TV why not keep the switch date and just make the coupons last longer? As soon as it goes out people will respond and get in line for their boob-tube bailouts.

  11. xdannyh says:

    Not to worry you can bet your last dollar (now worth about 10cents) on the fact that the morons in congress will do something! Even they are not stupid enough to take away the “brain candy” from the great unwashed. After all the masses must have their “games” (like the Romans) or they might wake up and be irritable. The old saying that “we are only 3 meals from a revolution” must be ameneded to “”or 48 hours without the “”electronic drug””.

  12. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    Big Brother is afraid that if all t.v.’s aren’t ready in time then he won’t have the ability to mass hypnotize them with his snake oil presentation.

  13. CaliforniaBear says:

    I don’t understand how they can run out of money to give out the coupons…… oh wait, I guess they gave away all the money they didn’t have to all of the bailout companies. I see what the government thinks is most important.


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