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FCC advances DTV tuner deadline

FCC commissioners voted Thursday to advance its deadline for including the ability to receiver digital television signals in all new sets to March 1, 2007 — four months sooner than previously mandated.

In the Second Report and Order on Requirements for Digital Television Receiving Capability, the commission also extended the requirement to cover new receivers with screen sizes smaller than 13in and put it on the same schedule.

The action moves the deadline for digital television tuner inclusion from July 1, 2007. In a previous rulemaking proposal, the commission sought comment on advancing the final deadline to Dec. 31, 2006.

On July 1, 2004, the tuner requirement was applied to 50 percent of sets with screen sizes 36in and larger. On July 1, 2005, the tuner requirement was applied to all large sets and to 50 percent of sets 25in to 36in. On March 1, 2006, DTV tuners will be required in all mid-size sets as well. With the change adopted in Thursday’s Second Report and Order, the final step in the phase-in plan requires that all new TV sets in all size ranges and other TV receivers include a DTV tuner beginning March 1, 2007. Previously, the deadline for sets 13in to 24in and for other TV receivers was July 1, 2007. Prior to this week’s action, sets smaller than 13in were not required to have digital tuners.

The NAB expressed support for the commission’s decision to cover sets with screens smaller than 13in. Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy summed up the comments of her colleagues in pointing out how important these small sets are in distributing vital information in times of emergency, such as the recent spate of hurricanes to strike the Gulf Coast and Florida. She also pointed out that it would be unlikely that a viewer relying on a battery-powered analog TV during an emergency would have the ability to use a set-top converter box.

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