Update: Switchback: 491 TV Stations Want to Keep Feb. DTV Date

Hundreds of U.S. TV stations said this week that they want to stick with the original Feb. 17, 2009, date for switching to digital transmissions, despite the fact that Congress passed legislation that would allow them to push that deadline back to June.

A total of 491 U.S. stations have alerted the FCC that they intend to shut off their analog broadcasts next week, joining the 190 other stations that have already made the switch or will do so before Feb. 17. Most of the stations making the digital switch are in smaller and medium-sized cities; those owned by FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS and Gannett have said they don’t plan to follow suit (they need all the viewers they can get).

The FCC can still block a station from switching early if it believes the public interest is at stake, for example if too many stations in one area abandoned analog broadcasts. The FCC said it will let stations know “promptly” if they are allowed to move forward with their switch.

Though Congress sent the bill to President Obama for signing, he has yet to do so, which has many in the industry scratching their heads since his administration encouraged the delay.

A full list of stations intending to switch to digital broadcasts on Feb. 17 can be found here.

Update: Broadcasting & Cable is reporting the FCC is currently working its way through all 491 station requests, and that the number of stations the commission could prohibit from making the switch next week could hit “triple digits.”