Congress needs to establish a firm cut-off date for analog television signals, clearing valuable spectrum for commercial wireless and public-safety uses, Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro wrote in a letter to Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the U.S. House Commerce Committee.

While elected officials are justifiably worried that large numbers of Americans will be disenfranchised when TV broadcasters transmit only digital signals, less than 13% of the 110 million U.S. households relies solely on over-the-air television signals, Shapiro wrote. Most U.S. households subscribe either to a cable or satellite package, with the number of these subscribers shrinking annually.

Shapiro said a government effort to ensure that over-the-air TV viewers have access to low-cost digital-to-analog converters makes sense.

“However, given the rapid growth of alternative forms of media delivery, a government effort to ensure that every American has some type of service after the analog cut off will not be as widespread a challenge as some people believe,” Shapiro’s letter states.

To decrease the number of disenfranchised viewers even further, Congress needs to establish a firm cut-off date for analog TV, so the public can be educated about the transition. This would let TV manufacturers include warning labels on analog sets, he said.

Currently, broadcasters are not required to clear the premium 700 MHz frequencies until 85% of all U.S. sets are capable of receiving digital signals--a threshold that may not be reached for several years, according to some experts.