Extend DTV Deadline, FCC Commissioner Says

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It's "just as well" the nationwide conversion to digital broadcast signals may be delayed, since the U.S. isn't prepared for the switch, Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein says.

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"People can't even get through to the help lines," and the government has run out of vouchers for converter boxes, which may leave hundreds of thousands of people without the mandated break on the gear necessary to convert some TVs, Adelstein said in a chat on the Panasonic stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. President-elect Barack Obama and others -- including CEA, sponsor of CES -- have urged a delay in the transmission deadline, currently February 17.

The switch will be great for consumers when it happens, Adelstein added. "Even those old beat-up TVs we grew up with look fantastic hooked up to digital," the FCC commissioner said, surrounded by newly announced and prototype high-definition digital huge flat-panels on display at the show. He chuckled and noted that TV viewers might enjoy the new gear as well.

Adelstein also pushed the new services that freeing up that spectrum could enable, notably a nationwide emergency communications network and more widely available broadband. "Spectrum is the lifeblood so all this innovation can happen," he said, gesturing around the lively expo.

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