Copps predicts DTV switchover will be ‘throw of the dice’

The commissioner warned that some stations might not be able to provide service to all of their viewers.
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Michael Copps, opposition leader to FCC chairman Kevin Martin, is frustrated. The final DTV transition rules, issued last week, should have come a year earlier, he said.

“If a dissent could legitimately be based on frustration at being stuck in this situation, I would dissent today — I am that frustrated by our inaction,” he said.

He warned there will be some period of time — perhaps before the transition date and almost certainly after — in which some stations may not be able to provide service to all of their viewers.

“Pulling the switch on stations all across the land at one and the same time in February 2009 is going to be a real throw of the dice,” he said. “It is unfathomable to me that we are planning to turn off every analog signal in the country on a single day without running at least one test market first.”

“Other countries are transitioning over time, with phased schedules,” he continued. “The United Kingdom, for example, is transitioning between 2007 and 2012, region-by-region, learning at every step along the way and making the necessary adjustments. The UK recently transitioned the small town of Whitehaven as the first step in a multi-year transition plan; a few years ago, Germany took a similar step in Berlin. The lessons learned from those initial test markets doubtless will prove invaluable to those countries’ broader transition efforts. We need some of that real-world experience here. Why in the world aren’t we doing that?”