House Committee calls for 2008 analog switch off

The U.S. House of Representatives Telecommunications subcommittee held a hearing last month to hear views on the proposed switch from analog to digital television.

The high tech and public safety community advocated a proposed deadline of Dec. 31, 2008, for the switch. In 1997, Congress said broadcasters had to transition to the digital spectrum by Dec. 31, 2006, or when 85 percent of TV viewers in any given market had a digital TV set.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, (R-TX), said a big failure in current law is driving the need for legislation. Barton said he would be willing to support a limited equipment supply program, so long as it is targeted toward low-income households.

There was general agreement amongst attendees that it was critical to set a firm deadline for the switch. Consumers would benefit by moving television broadcasts from the current analog spectrum to a digital spectrum. Once the analog spectrum is available, not only would consumers be able to receive new Internet and communication services, but also police and firefighters could improve the radio systems that are vital to their lifesaving missions.

Accelerating the digital transition is the most important thing Congress can do to improve broadband deployment, particularly for rural areas, said Peter Pitsch, communications policy director for Intel.

Although the need for a firm deadline was agreed, opinions differ on the subsidy needed for digital set-top converters for existing analog receivers.

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