The Senate passed legislation Wednesday that sets February 17, 2009, as the deadline to convert broadcast signals from analog to digital television.
The measures earmarked $1.5 billion in assistance in upgrading for 73 million TV sets that will need a converter box to receive digital signals. Qualifying households will receive up to two $40 coupons to use toward converter boxes. The Senate bill also includes $156 million for a national alert system and $43.5 million for a fully enhanced 911 emergency system.
On Monday, the House passed a similar measure, but the legislation must go back to the House for a full vote because of some changes in conference.
As part of conference to hammer out differences in their DTV plans, legislators stripped out a provision that would have allowed cable operators to down-convert high-definition digital signals.
An earlier version in the Senate had set April 7, 2009, as the hard transition date and earmarked $3 billion for coupons.