Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said Congress needs to do something to help consumers with the older analog sets, an estimated 21 million households. "If we're mandating this (digital) conversion, we cannot leave people behind because they can't afford" digital television sets, he said.
The draft of a House bill would end analog transmissions on Dec. 31, 2008. It does not mention a subsidy for set-top converter boxes. So, lawmakers will likely have to work out differences between the two bills, though Stevens said he did not anticipate a big fight with the House over the deadline or the subsidy.
The subsidy program would be paid for by money raised from the auction of the analog spectrum the broadcasters are vacating. The subsidy would be available for all those households with older televisions, and it would pay for converter boxes for all the TVs in a particular household, regardless of financial status.
Stevens estimates that the converter boxes would cost about $50. His plan would call for the government to pay roughly $40, and the consumer would make a co-payment of $10.
Interesting info on how the date of the switch was picked:
The seemingly random date of April 7, 2009, isn't all that random. Stevens wanted to make sure that any digital switch wouldn't come in the middle of popular programming during the holidays, football bowl games, and the March Madness college basketball playoffs.