Thursday, February 5, 2009

Digital Television Transition Delayed until June

On Wed, Feb 4, Congress voted (H.R. 681) to delay the mandatory cessation of analog television broadcasts that was schedule for February 17th.

Why put it off?
Nielsen reports that 6.5 million home aren't ready for the transition right now.
I suspect that many of these people are aware of the transition, but just putting off the hassle of hooking up a converter box until they have to.

Advertisers and consumer groups argued in favor of the delay, since these households would have lost their television signal on Feb 17.

The federal program to provide coupons for digital television converters ran out of funds, and it's hoped that by delaying the switch, and putting more funds into the coupon program, many of these households can be prepared for when the transition occurs.
But as of this writing, 2/3 of the coupons sent out have not been used. These coupons expire 90 days after being issued, and it expected that most will, indeed, expire.
The value of an expired coupon goes back into the pool so the government can issue new coupons.

But what does the delay cost?
For starters, we have the simple cost of operating the old analog transmitters. At over $10,000/month, many stations simply can't afford that overhead in today's economic climate. In addition, the stations are concerned about the cost of running the addition public service announcements.

Some of the bandwidth being freed up by shutting down the analog transmitters will be used for a new emergency services band. So delaying the digital transition delays this network.

Other parts of the bandwidth have already been auctioned off to private industry.
Qualcomm claims the delay of its new mobile television offering will cost tens of millions of dollars.

I've updated the count-down at, but I noticed the official government site hasn't updated their count-down timer yet.

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