February 1, 2006 3:53 PM PST

Early 2009 set for end of analog TV

It's finally official: American households must ensure their televisions are equipped to receive solely digital TV broadcasts by Feb. 17, 2009.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday cleared the deadline for shutting down analog broadcasts. Part of a broader budget reconciliation bill that passed by a narrow 216-214 vote, the measure heads next to the White House for President Bush's signature.

The approved bill's language on digital television is identical to a version cleared by the Senate just before its winter recess. The broader bill had been bogged down because of disagreements among politicians over some of its other myriad provisions.

The 2009 deadline will not affect the vast majority of Americans who already subscribe to cable or satellite TV. But households relying on an antenna to receive "over the air" analog broadcasts--an estimated 15 percent of American households--must acquire a digital tuner to continue receiving TV shows.

The final legislation includes up to $990 million for a government subsidy program under which eligible households would be able to apply for up to two $40 vouchers to use toward buying digital-to-analog set-top converter boxes. According to industry estimates, those devices will likely cost between $50 and $60 by 2009.

The bill's approval won speedy praise from the High Tech DTV Coalition, a group of 19 trade associations and technology companies including AT&T, Dell, Cisco Systems, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Texas Instruments, which has been lobbying fervently for the transition.

"Now that Congress has freed the 700MHz band, we expect that both the giants of the tech sector and its talented rookies will have room to innovate--to the benefit of American consumers and our economy," said Janice Obuchowski, the group's executive director.

She was referring to the government's ultimate auction of the freed-up analog spectrum, which is scheduled to occur no later than Jan. 28, 2008 and is projected to raise about $10 billion to offset government spending. Technology companies have been clamoring for the 700MHz analog band because it has inherent scientific properties that could allow for more affordable, easily deployable broadband networks.


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
I thought this was a joke.
This means everyone will have to pay for TV. Whats next, forcing everyone to use XM radio! Its rediculous!
Posted by ryanmickyv (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What's next
Is freeing up analog wavelengths for emergency services.

So - my questions is - why SHOULDN'T you pay for what you get ? You want something for nothing. well - TANSTAAFL.
Posted by (409 comments )
Link Flag
Digital TV is still broadcast TV
Digital TV is still broadcast over the airwaves. It doesn't have an inherent cost. The only cost would be for a DTV tuner or a TV with a digital tuner built in. Better picture, less use of bandwidth, as free as any other broadcast TV, who could ask for more?
Posted by behaynie (1 comment )
Link Flag
You haven't watched OTA HDTV yet!!
You must live in a small town with no digital stations (yet) or you
haven't been paying attention, but all TV stations are required to
broadcast signals in digital format (typically MPEG2 embedded in
a carrier wave in the same VHF/UHF spectrum as today). Since
MPEG2 allows for good compression, even a high definition
stream (1920 x 1080 i) can be sent using smaller bandwidth
than today's single analog channel. So, most TV stations in
bigger markets are broadcasting a digital signal and many of
those are actually passing HD signals from network
programming. These including popular shows such as CSI, Law
and Order, 24, even most sitcoms. Using just a roof top or an
indoor antenna is the best way to get network TV (better than
cable and definitely satellite) - if you live within a few miles of
the TV stations. This is actually a good thing for us because the
sooner we can switch over to DTV, the sooner the manufacturers
have to compete on bringing down the price of DTV sets.
Posted by bommai (172 comments )
Link Flag
The joke is
That you failed to understand. The broadcast stations are supposed to be sending out digital transmissions already, you just need a different tuner to accept the digital version of the broadcast instead of the analog version. Once you get the digital you won't want to return to the analog anyway since the digital version is crisp and clear without ghosting or static. Likewise, if you've got a HD TV you'll be able to see the HD versions of the shows that are broadcast in HD but if you're still using your old TV you can still watch the "ordinary" version.
I'm gonna watch the Superbowl this weekend in crystal clear HD from the same place I watched it last year where intense static made the picture nearly unusable. Believe me, there's a huge difference if you're in an area where the reception of the analog signal isn't optimum.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Oh well
This is almost like companies that make web sites viewable only
by IE/Win.

Here we have government getting in the way of business, but it's
the businesses fault. America should have nationwide
broadband by now, but companies have dropped the ball. That's
where the focus should be: widespread high-speed internet, not
digital TV.

By 2009, I'll be watching tv solely though my computer and
downloading movies anyway. Oh well.
Posted by (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is not about TV
This is not about TV. ISP's have been drooling over the analogue signals for a while now. They want to use them to offer WiFi service.
Posted by norman619 (21 comments )
Link Flag
The end of free TV?
Not affect cable users? That's a load! Our cable provider still provides channels 2 through 78 as analog and we have 3 VCR's, 2 PVR's, and 2 PC's with analog TV tuner cards all hooked up to be able to record shows directly from the cable on those channels without needing the box. Also, all 3 of our "cable ready" analog TV's could directly tune those channels. After Feb 17, 2009, we will go from
11 tuners to 1 (the cable box itself). We will no longer be able to record two shows simultaneously.
Not affect cable users? Ha! I will probably upgrade my highspeed Internet service and completely drop my cable TV service and start downloading the few shows I watch in commercial free mpeg files using Miro (www.getmiro.com) and listen to radio or use the newspaper for news and weather. Saying goodbye to analog TV will be saying googbye to ALL TV for many users.

As for TBS whining that digital TV recorders are hastening the demise of advertising supported TV - we've been using the analog VCR's to fast forward through all the commercials for YEARS! Remember when you paid for cable TV, you used to get mostly commercial free programming? Now, cable TV is either "premium" channels, religious channels, sports, soaps, toons, or infomercials and they ALL have commercials. Apparently, the commercials aren't supporting anything but the advertisers hopes. Station 23 and Max Headroom? We're already there, it seems.
Posted by JohnCLord (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I live in a town in Central Illinois of about 80 thousand and I have lived without cable tv for many years and get a variety of channels fairly well most of the time with rabbit ears - abc, nbc, fox, pbs, and cw which more than meets my needs.

Now that I have been experimenting with the new digital format it appears I will only be able to get 2 stations. Even with an antenna on my roof - some of the stations I get are broadcast from Champaign and from Springfield both 40 miles in the OPPOSITE directions. So the only way I will be able to get these stations is with 2 antennas on my roof - each facing different directions. And in fact even that will not be a consist connection I know because I have already tested it 1 way.

So now that I am a time when could likely lose my job do to the mortgage crisis (banking) I am VIRTUALLY FORCED to purchase cable to have any tv at all.

Just who did the cable company's buy to get this horrible change in place??? Decatur is a community with a large number of low income and elderly. THIS IS JUST PLAIN WRONG!!!
Posted by Sueindecatur (17 comments )
Reply 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



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.