A bill to delay the analog shutdown hadn't made it out of either the House or Senate commerce committees Thursday. However, late Thursday, incoming Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller indicated he had reached a compromise with the committee's top Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas—who indicated Friday morning she could accept revised legislation.
House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said on his committee’s Web site Wednesday, “The transition to digital television is not going well. There is not enough money for the converter box coupon program and millions of Americans could experience serious problems. Delay of the deadline is our only hope of lessening the impact on millions of consumers. Without a short, one-time extension, millions of households will lose all television reception. Late last week Senate Republicans blocked a bill to delay the transition date. I have postponed Committee consideration of the DTV markup to give the Committee more time to assess the implications of the Senate action.”
Jan. 8, Hutchison said it was too early to call for a delay to the digital transition.
Verizon, which originally opposed any delay, joined AT&T in accepting a short, one-time delay in the analog shutdown from Feb. 17 to June 12, 2009, the date in the draft bill.
Qualcomm, however, still opposes any delay in the analog shutdown. In an FCC filing it said it is ready to turn on its 700 MHz MediaFLO service in 40 markets immediately following the analog shutdown.
David LaGresse, in his US News and World Report blog asked, “Does anyone care? TV on cell phones has been slow to take off in this country. So it seems highly unlikely that Qualcomm has much leverage to stall this stall.”
Some broadcasters are concerned keeping two transmitters—analog and digital—on the air past Feb. 17 will cause budget problems due to unanticipated power and maintenance costs.
“A delay would not be welcome for the broadcast stations themselves,” Sinclair Broadcast Group's Nat Ostroff told The New York Times. He said Sinclair, which owns 58 stations in 35 markets, had done considerable planning to ensure a smooth transition on Feb. 17.
The next step is for the Senate to pass the Rockefeller bill. That is unlikely to happen until next week. House approval will then be required.
Check the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Web site for additional information. As of Friday morning, the text of the proposed bill had not been posted
Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.
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