Obama Signs Digital Delay Bill

Dennis Faas's picture

Plans to delay the mandatory switch-off of America's analog TV signals became official last night when Barack Obama signed the bill into law. But around a third of stations are still expected to voluntarily switch to all-digital broadcasts as early as next week, throwing the timetable for wireless Internet expansion into more confusion.

The switch-off was originally scheduled for next Tuesday, but the deadline is now June 12. The major networks don't plan to switch off nationwide immediately, but some local affiliates are among the 681 stations which have already applied to go all-digital on the original 17 February date. (Source: informationweek.com)

Those stations that wish to go digital early must broadcast an analog signal for two weeks advising consumers of the switch-off. Where all the stations in a market want to switch off early, at least one must continue broadcasting news and public affairs programming on an analog signal for the next 60 days.

You can check the situation in your market through a list on the Federal Communications Commission website in both PDF and Word formats.

Economic Worries Cause Delay

Government officials said a delay was necessary because of a hold-up with a scheme to give $40 vouchers to help people buy digital converter boxes. A large waiting list has built up comprised of those who had originally planned to buy a new television with digital reception built-in but instead decided to keep their old analog set because of economic concerns.

The delay went through a difficult legislative process: although it cleared the Senate unanimously, it had to go through the House of Representatives twice after backers overestimated support for the scheme and failed in an attempt to use a fast-track lawmaking process which needed a two-thirds majority vote. The bill later passed on a straight majority vote but uncertainty had grown as the original deadline loomed. (Source: latimes.com)

The delay to the switch-off has implications for the tech industry. Digital signals use less of the airwaves than analog broadcasts, and some of the freed-up frequencies will be auctioned for use by wireless Internet providers. The delay means those plans now face an uncertain timetable.

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