2006 in Review: U.S. DTV Transition Progressing

In a little more than 60 days, all new TV sets in all size ranges, as well any other TV receiver, will have to include an ATSC DTV tuner. Many of the new tuners (both "can" type and silicon) inside these sets, and ATSC demodulators used with them, have specifications that meet or exceed the ATSC A/74 receiver performance guidelines. These tuners and demodulators will allow many consumers that purchase these sets to see spectacular quality off-air TV, even with indoor antennas. Whether or not consumers actually attempt to receive off-air TV instead of just hooking their new set up to a cable box will depend largely on whether retailers and broadcasters educate viewers on the "free TV" option.

With the release of the FCC 7th Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on the DTV transition, all eligible stations have a proposed post-transition DTV channel allotment. Two years ago, I wrote that I expected the FCC to release a final DTV table of allotments in early 2006. Last year, I wrote, "It doesn't look like that prediction will come true..." but thought the FCC would release a final post-transition DTV table of allotments by the end of 2006. While the 7th NPRM table is not final, we are getting close. On my third try this year, I don't believe I'm too optimistic in predicting a final DTV table of allotments from the FCC before NAB in April.

In 2007 I hope we see an end to the FCC's freeze on DTV applications that propose extending a station's service contour beyond what is currently authorized. During the DTV transition, some stations were not able to maximize their coverage and, perhaps more important, the signal strength in the communities they serve, as any increase in power would cause unacceptable interference to analog TV stations. Before analog TV is turned off on Feb. 17, 2009, all stations should have the opportunity to file for, be authorized to construct and, after the analog TV shutdown, utilize such maximized facilities to deliver the best possible signal to their audience.