Subsidized set-top boxes could be part of completing transition to DTV

Subsidized TV could offer a solution to the thorny issue of completing the analog-to-digital transition or television broadcasters, according to one congressman.

According to Fred Upton (R-MI), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, any legislation designed to bring about an expeditious end to the transition may include a program to provide digital-to-analog converters to households that only receive over-the-air TV.

Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Upton said they might introduce legislation to remove the 85 percent rule, requiring that percentage of U.S. households to receive broadcasters’ DTV signals before completing the transition. With that removed, the hard deadline would be Dec. 31, 2006.

Estimates run as high as 21 million people in the United States who exclusively receive television from over-the-air broadcast stations. Many are economically less-fortunate.

Congress seeks return of the spectrum broadcasters use for their analog transmission because it is widely regarded as “beachfront” spectrum because of its ability to penetrate walls and other structures. The government foresees auctioning of the spectrum at some future date for other spectrum use, such as wideband wireless Internet service.

Some lawmakers have suggested that a portion of the proceeds from such auctions could offset the cost of digital-to-analog converter boxes for the poor.

For more information read, “GAO reports potential cost of OTA set-top box subsidy.”

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