Thousands of television viewers, particularly the elderly, could be left without access to broadcast television when the system switches from analog to digital formatting nationwide, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., warned Thursday.

Schumer announced a plan to ensure that upstate residents can obtain federal coupons designed to cover much of the cost of analog-to-digital converter boxes.

Television broadcast signals are in analog and digital formats, but on Feb. 18, they will be transmitted by a digital signal only. Households with analog-only televisions won’t be able to receive television transmissions unless they subscribe to a cable or satellite service, acquire a television with appropriate equipment or buy a analog-to-digital converter box to connect to their analog TV.

Schumer said the switch could be a problem for the elderly, who are more likely to have older television sets.

About 296,000 households across upstate are estimated to have no televisions equipped for digital reception, Schumer said, and in the Binghamton market, the estimate is 11,000, or about 8 percent, of 139,000 televisions households.

Schumer has proposed legislation to increase funding for public awareness and implementation of the switch, as well as of the converter-box subsidy program, according to a media release.

He also is calling on President Bush to direct the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to allow consumers with expired converter-box subsidy coupons to re-apply for new coupons. About 41,000 coupons distributed in New York have expired, and holders of those coupons have no recourse, Schumer said.

Under the NTIA program, individuals with analog-only televisions can apply for up to two $40 coupons to subsidize the cost of equipment for the switch. Of 726,111 coupons issued to New Yorkers, 132,432 coupons have been redeemed, Schumer said.

For more information, visit the NTIA at or call (888) DTV-2009.

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