Monday, November 14, 2005

Digital TV Switch Nears a Date

Senate picks 2009, House voted for sooner transition, but a decision may occur soon.

Grant Gross, IDG News Service
Monday, November 07, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The Senate has voted to set April 7, 2009, as the deadline for U.S. television stations to switch to digital broadcasts and free up analog radio spectrum for wireless broadband and public-safety uses.
The Senate approved the digital-television (DTV) transition deadline late last week as part of a large budget package aimed at reducing the federal deficit. Auctioning off part of the freed-up spectrum is expected to raise $10 billion or more, with $5 billion going to the U.S. treasury in the Senate legislation.

Earlier Date Rejected

The Senate rejected an amendment by Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, to move the transition deadline up by a year. McCain argued that emergency response agencies need additional spectrum as quickly as possible. Emergency response agencies often cannot communicate with each other because of congested spectrum, McCain said.

"Here we are [for] our first responders, the brave men and women who put their lives on the line in defense of the lives of their fellow citizens who have already given their lives, who have performed so magnificently, who want to be able to talk to each other, who want the spectrum freed up," McCain said on the Senate floor. "And what do we do here in Congress? We delay it as long as possible. It is disgraceful conduct on our part."

Supporters of the 2009 date argue that an earlier deadline would rush spectrum auctions, potentially leading to lower bids. With lower bids, the auctions wouldn't meet the budget deficit reduction targets set by Congress.

In October, a House of Representatives committee set December 31, 2008, as the DTV transition deadline. Negotiators would have to iron out the differences in the two bills before a DTV deadline becomes law.