A House bill has marked down $830 million in subsidies, while a Senate version of the bill would put aside $3 billion in subsidies. Many Congressional members--mostly Democrats--complain that many TV consumers--especially low-income and minority TV users, perhaps some 21 million homes--would need a $60 set-top converter box.
Even then, middle-income households--two, three, or four TV set households--would also need some converters, since in most cases only one home TV set is digital. An estimated 130 million TV sets are still analog--those sets will still be in use by the time the proposed switch to digital occurs.
While Markey criticizes the start date of January 2009, others want a faster turnaround. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants to move up the date to possibly 2007, or even late 2006.
The rush comes from Republicans pushing to give so-called 'first responders'--emergency officials--all the analog spectrum that would be given up by broadcasters. With the full analog signals at their disposal, emergency officials could more easily communicate with each other in times of emergency. Communication breakdowns have been major problems for first responders when dealing with the 9/11 and more recent hurricane disasters.