WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama's transition team on Thursday asked Congress to consider postponing the upcoming national switch to digital television, warning that more congressional action is needed to address potential problems.
In a letter sent to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, transition co-chair John Podesta called funding in support of the switch "woefully inadequate," The Washington Post reported.
The letter comes on the heels of news that the $1.3 billion fund to provide citizens with $40 coupons for digital converter boxes has run dry, and more than 100,000 consumers already sit on a waiting list for the coupons. For months, officials have said the digital transition, scheduled for February 17, is likely to be fraught with problems.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a senior member of the House Telecommunications and the Internet subcommittee, said it was worth considering pushing back the date.
"The prospect of leaving millions of consumers in the dark requires Congress to immediately consider the feasibility of the President-elect's proposal," in spite of significant logistical challenges, he said.
He also said Congress should immediately pass legislation to make more coupons available.
Other members of Congress came out in support of adding emergency funds to the federal program, including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), ranking member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. However, Hutchison said it would be unwise at this point to set back the date of the transition.
"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," she said.