October 14, 2005 12:25 PM PDT

Bill proposes new deadline for digital TV

All television sets in American households must air digital-only broadcasts by spring of 2009, according to a draft Senate bill slated for consideration next week.

The five-page draft, which has been circulating this week, calls for a "hard date" of April 7, 2009, by which broadcasters must abandon the analog spectrum. That's slightly later than the Jan. 1 mark lawmakers had suggested during hearings convened by the Senate Commerce Committee this summer. That committee plans to take up the measure at a mark-up session on Wednesday.

Under current law, the switch must occur on Dec. 31, 2006, or when 85 percent of American households are able to receive the digital broadcasts--whichever comes first.

By one consumer group's count, as many as 80 million television sets rely on analog signals, and would need to be wired for digital cable or have not been outfitted with "set-top boxes" designed to convert digital signals back to analog. But by 2009, only about 7 percent of television viewers--still several million--will be relying solely on analog, "over-the-air" broadcasts, according to Consumer Electronics Association estimates. Converter boxes are expected to cost about $50, according to industry estimates.

But in Hurricane Katrina's wake, lawmakers have been especially vocal about the need to set a hard transition date sooner than later, citing concerns about lack of available spectrum for first responders, who conduct their emergency communications on the analog side.

The government plans to set aside some of the available airwaves for emergency communications and to auction off the rest--as a federal fundraiser of sorts--to commercial wireless companies.

Mobile industry representatives testifying at the summer committee hearing said they hoped to buy spectrum and use it to create more affordable, widespread wireless broadband networks. That's because the analog spectrum is located at a lower frequency, which, by nature, allows signals to travel in a straighter line and, at least in theory, longer distances.

Licenses to use the newly freed-up spectrum would be put up for sale beginning Jan. 28, 2008, according to the draft proposal. Of the money raised, $4.8 billion would have to be transferred to the general Treasury fund by Oct. 2, 2009, to offset other federal expenses or tax cuts.

Other proceeds would go to a fund specially designated for subsidizing the cost of digital-to-analog converter boxes, converting low-power TV stations from analog to digital, and "providing systems to coastal states affected by hurricanes and other disasters."

That fund would also bankroll programs to implement the Enhance 911 Act of 2004. That measure calls for upgrades to emergency call center answering points so that they can access the "enhanced" 911 network, which is able to pinpoint a caller's geographic location.

The digital switchover also has received a ringing endorsement from a group of high-tech industry leaders, including Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.

20 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Um, why?
Why is the government even involved in this? Why is it some bureacrat's job to decide what technology a tv station has to use for its broadcasts? And given that almost 90% of the tv audience is subscriber based anyways, this sees like a monumental waste of taxpayer money.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good question
It would be cheaper to take away all broadcast spectrum from broadcasters, use some portions for emergency and everything else should be auctioned off. The money from auctions goes to subsidize DBS for the poor. Problem solved, with hundreds of billions earned.

Just have to wait for broadcasters to loose all influence in Washington. That will happen once the oil industry does so.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Link Flag
Freqencies
Governments decide what frequencies are used for what. In most cases countries at the moment are using extra to aid the transition from Analog to digital. The government wants the old analog freed up ASAP.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Um, why?
Why is the government even involved in this? Why is it some bureacrat's job to decide what technology a tv station has to use for its broadcasts? And given that almost 90% of the tv audience is subscriber based anyways, this sees like a monumental waste of taxpayer money.
Posted by (402 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good question
It would be cheaper to take away all broadcast spectrum from broadcasters, use some portions for emergency and everything else should be auctioned off. The money from auctions goes to subsidize DBS for the poor. Problem solved, with hundreds of billions earned.

Just have to wait for broadcasters to loose all influence in Washington. That will happen once the oil industry does so.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Link Flag
Freqencies
Governments decide what frequencies are used for what. In most cases countries at the moment are using extra to aid the transition from Analog to digital. The government wants the old analog freed up ASAP.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Bureaucratic BS...
Now the Govt wants to dictate HOW we watch TV and HOW it is broadcast and when I am, by law, REQUIRED to buy a new television set! This is beyond ridiculous, self serving mingling...besides the cost!!
Posted by Vetter83 (50 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bureaucratic BS...
Now the Govt wants to dictate HOW we watch TV and HOW it is broadcast and when I am, by law, REQUIRED to buy a new television set! This is beyond ridiculous, self serving mingling...besides the cost!!
Posted by Vetter83 (50 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who sold the air to the Gov't?
I didn't know Big Brother also owned the airwaves. I always knew it was regulated for fair distribution but didn't know a bandwidth could be bought and sold.Forcing industry to upgrade on a government schedule is making the lobbyist rich somehow. Considering only a small percentage of the world owns TV's, under-developed small countries won't be buying Awmerican even more.
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who sold the air to the Gov't?
I didn't know Big Brother also owned the airwaves. I always knew it was regulated for fair distribution but didn't know a bandwidth could be bought and sold.Forcing industry to upgrade on a government schedule is making the lobbyist rich somehow. Considering only a small percentage of the world owns TV's, under-developed small countries won't be buying Awmerican even more.
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Unnecessary delay....
Everyone is dragging their feet. Sure, the shift will cost money, but
that's the price for quality TV. The current TV broadcast system is
lousy (so is the programming, unfortunately), and improvement is
desperately needed.

I was hoping that the 2006 deadline would be enforced; 2009
seems much too long a delay. Obviously the non HDTV lobbyists
are earning their money. Meanwhile, the viewing public gets the
shaft.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You work for which lobbyist?
Just wondering, You sound like someone that probably works for a foreign company that would love to see mandatory requirements that makes Americans spend money on toy upgrades.
Posted by (6 comments )
Link Flag
Unnecessary delay....
Everyone is dragging their feet. Sure, the shift will cost money, but
that's the price for quality TV. The current TV broadcast system is
lousy (so is the programming, unfortunately), and improvement is
desperately needed.

I was hoping that the 2006 deadline would be enforced; 2009
seems much too long a delay. Obviously the non HDTV lobbyists
are earning their money. Meanwhile, the viewing public gets the
shaft.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You work for which lobbyist?
Just wondering, You sound like someone that probably works for a foreign company that would love to see mandatory requirements that makes Americans spend money on toy upgrades.
Posted by (6 comments )
Link Flag
Digital TV
As one reader asked, "Who gave the Government ownership of the AIR?" If government wants the citizens of the USA to receive digital signals, then the GOVERNMENT should be required to provide FREE equipment to the citizens of the USA to receive those signals. Who has the money in their household budget to spend $1600 - $4800 on a monitor and receiver. What the GOVERNMENT is forcing the public to do is rely on the Cable Companies for the viewing of television programming.

Thanks for letting me RANT!
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No problem....
1. Federal and international law gives the US Government the
right to control frequency usage within the US.

2. Your begging for government payoff is not impressive. And
there are no end of Federal laws that require your expenditure of
money. And of course, if you want the government to pay for
your new TV, you need to set up a bureaucracy to manage the
process, which will raise your cost, through taxes, to maybe
$3200 to $9600.

3. Cool your jets and wait. In five years or so, new TV's will cost
about the same as old TV's do now.

4. Cable companies and satellite systems are the two best ways
to get quality TV. OTA Broadcast TV is extremely limited in
channel quantity and coverage.

5 Rant as you need, but take a deep breath first. The sky is not
falling.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Digital TV
As one reader asked, "Who gave the Government ownership of the AIR?" If government wants the citizens of the USA to receive digital signals, then the GOVERNMENT should be required to provide FREE equipment to the citizens of the USA to receive those signals. Who has the money in their household budget to spend $1600 - $4800 on a monitor and receiver. What the GOVERNMENT is forcing the public to do is rely on the Cable Companies for the viewing of television programming.

Thanks for letting me RANT!
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No problem....
1. Federal and international law gives the US Government the
right to control frequency usage within the US.

2. Your begging for government payoff is not impressive. And
there are no end of Federal laws that require your expenditure of
money. And of course, if you want the government to pay for
your new TV, you need to set up a bureaucracy to manage the
process, which will raise your cost, through taxes, to maybe
$3200 to $9600.

3. Cool your jets and wait. In five years or so, new TV's will cost
about the same as old TV's do now.

4. Cable companies and satellite systems are the two best ways
to get quality TV. OTA Broadcast TV is extremely limited in
channel quantity and coverage.

5 Rant as you need, but take a deep breath first. The sky is not
falling.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.