[Chtechcomm] Demise of Analog Television

Terri Buckner tbuckner at ibiblio.org
Sun Oct 16 21:15:28 EDT 2005

Senate Bill Sets Spring 2009 Demise for Analog Television

By Arshad Mohammed
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 15, 2005; Page D02

Senate Commerce Committee staffers have drafted a bill setting April 7, 
2009 -- the day after March Madness ends -- as the date to end 
nationwide analog TV broadcasts and complete the switch to digital 

Millions of people who watch traditional, over-the-air analog broadcasts 
on sets with antennas will have to buy new digital TVs or set-top 
converter boxes to keep getting signals.

Congressional aides said they settled on the deadline -- which falls one 
day after the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball championships -- so as 
not to cut off any TV viewers at the height of the popular college 
basketball tournament.

Aides alsosets and are making plans to offer a federal subsidy of undetermined 
size to help people afford converter boxes.

Ending analog broadcasts, which have brought everything from "I Love 
Lucy" to NFL Football into living rooms for decades, will free up 
spectrum already set aside to improve police, firefighter and other 
emergency communications.

It will also bring a windfall in federal revenue by allowing the 
government to auction off spectrum to private companies who hope to 
exploit it for wireless Internet access and other high-tech uses.

In a letter yesterday, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates and 30 other 
executives urged Congress to set a deadline quickly and argued it will 
be a boon to the economy.

"While there are many challenges associated with this transition, we ask 
you to remain focused on the concrete benefits of getting additional 
spectrum into the marketplace as soon as possible: enhanced public 
safety communications . . . and the deployment of ubiquitous broadband 
services to consumers," the executives wrote.

The failure of public safety communications during Hurricane Katrina has 
strengthened calls for Congress to free up spectrum so first responders 
can use it.

"The most important thing about this draft is that it's going to make 
spectrum available to public safety, police and firefighters around the 
country," said Senate Commerce Committee Chief of Staff Lisa Sutherland, 
noting that the bill would also set aside money to help first responders 
buy new radio equipment to use the spectrum.

The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to discuss the bill on 
Wednesday. It also must work out some agreement with House Commerce 
Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who favored Dec. 31, 2008, as 
the cut-off date.

That date was not adopted in the Senate draft partly because it could 
disrupt New Year's Day college football bowl games and because of a 
desire to make the transition while Congress is in session and could 
take action if necessary, aides said.

The biggest challenge for Congress may be educating consumers, many of 
whom do not know any cutoff is looming and who continue to buy analog TV 

Satellite subscribers will not be affected by the transition because 
they already receive digital signals. Cable companies are expected to 
win government permission to convert digital signals to analog for their 
customers, leaving them unaffected.

The draft does not specify how much money the government will set aside 
to subsidize the set-top boxes or just how this will be done. One idea 
under discussion is for consumers to make a co-payment and for retailers 
to bill the government for the remaining cost.

The House and Senate Commerce Committees are under pressure to set the 
date because the budget resolution requires them to raise revenue, or 
cut spending, to reduce the budget deficit. The sale of analog spectrum 
could provide at least $10 billion, according to an informal estimate by 
the Congressional Budget Office.

Even if the committees reach agreement on a bill, aides noted that it 
could get derailed because of broader budget politics.

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