Powell: Well, of course, Mr. Chairman...

FCC Chairman Michael Powell tagged his cable convention talk with a comment that will probably take no one by surprise: The DTV transition will take more time than the federal government expected.

“Consumers,” said Powell, “take longer to adapt to new revolutions than the government-mandated time frame suggested. We are pushing hard to make sure the transition moves at a quicker clip.”

Congress has given broadcasters until the end of 2006 to convert to over-the-air digital signals. However, the conversion can be delayed indefinitely if 85 percent of TV homes are not digital ready by then. It has long been assumed the 2006 deadline is impractical.

"Just in the last few months you've seen an extraordinary increase in consumer purchases of high-definition television," which is a form of digital TV with even clearer pictures and a widescreen format," Powell said. "There will be a moment—and I don't think it’s that far away — where it’s just going to rocket up for consumers.”

What Powell didn’t note is most of those sales were for sets to be used with subscription cable or satellite systems and not for over-the-air broadcast reception, which is still problematic at best in many areas of the country.

For more information visit www.fcc.gov.

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