Digital transition coalition forms to push digital TV

A new group — called the Digital Transition Coalition — has formed to increase pressure on television broadcasters to accelerate the DTV transition and ensure the return of analog spectrum for use by new technologies.

Members of the coalition include Americans for Tax Reform, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, EchoStar Communications, Frontiers of Freedom, Media Access Project, Public Knowledge, and the Small Business Survival Committee.

“Congress took an important step towards ensuring a digital future when they mandated that broadcasters provide a digital signal on par with their analog service by 2002,” said George Landrith, president of Frontiers of Freedom. “Unfortunately, we are now almost two years past that deadline and more than 60 percent of television stations have still not met that obligation.”

“We have come together as taxpayer groups, consumer advocates and technology leaders to fight for policies which will finally make the transition a reality,” added Landrith.

The coalition seeks to bring immediate availability of network DTV signals to all consumers nationwide; the immediate redeployment of the analog spectrum dedicated for public safety access nationwide; and the return of analog spectrum by December 31, 2006. They also advocate the re-auctioning of the analog spectrum by the FCC no later than December 31, 2007.

As part of the coalition’s launch last week, there was the unveiling of a Web site — — to provide information on the campaign to speed up the transition and to encourage citizen support for legislative proposals that will achieve the goals. The Web site will provide information about legislation and proposals, along with academic studies and any advocacy on behalf of the digital transition goal. It will also provide citizens an avenue for communicating their opinions to congress on these issues. The site is being funded by members of the coalition to help advance this important goal.

“Ultimately we need to deliver digital television to American consumers as soon as possible and ensure the return of the analog spectrum to the American taxpayer,” said Tom Schatz, president of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.

“Local broadcasters are currently sitting on, what a number of analysts have estimated at, hundreds of billions of dollars worth of analog spectrum that congress gave them to make this transition,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “By taking steps to speed up the transition, we can ensure that this spectrum is returned by December 31, 2006 as required.”

“Once the spectrum is returned it can be re-auctioned at a significant value to the American taxpayer,” added Norquist. “In the current budget situation, it is vital that this valuable spectrum is returned to the taxpayer. Additionally, this return will allow new generations of technology such as WiFi and 3G, as well as law enforcement, to take advantage of the new spectrum.”

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