DTV Delay: A Done Deal

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on January 26, 2009

The House is expected to vote Tuesday to delay the final transition to digital television in the U.S. from Feb. 17 to June 12, following the Senate’s unanimous passage of the legislation today.

Oddly, the bill does not appear to contain any new money (the text of the bill as passed was not available as of this writing) to subsidize the purchase of of converter boxes that will allow analog TVs to receive digital signals after the switchover. The exhaustion of funds for the $40 coupons was the ostensible reason for the delay. The bill does, however, give new life to coupons that were ordered but not used as required within 90 days. My local BestBuy had enormous piles of converters available for $50 (before coupon) last weekend.

The big question remains what is going to happen come June. Chances are the small minority of Americans who aren't ready for the switch now won't be any more ready come June. But further delay would be problematic. Verizon Wireless and AT&T bid nearly $20 billion for wireless spectrum that will be freed in the transition; they want the spectrum and the government needs the money. Meanwhile, spectrum that is supposed to be released for public safety use is also being held up. And broadcast stations are incurring extra costs to keep both their analog and digital signals on the air.

The transition to digital TV has been an extraordinarily long a bumpy road. The switch was set in motion by the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996 and was originally scheduled to be complete by late 2006.

Reader Comments

(sigh)

January 27, 2009 3:04 AM

The decision to wait until after the Super Bowl was a mistake. If the FCC mandated the switchover to take place the day before, there might not have been enough procrastinators to cause a delay. At least June 12 occurs during the NBA finals, so hopefully most people will be ready by then.

Observer1

January 27, 2009 3:25 AM

There will be many more dollars for coupon use available, as previously issued coupons get expired.

For example: I ordered a coupon. The government sent me two of them. I have used the one I needed, but will probably let the other one lapse. I suspect there are millions of such coupons on track to lapse in the next 60 days.

brunnegd

January 27, 2009 9:19 AM

Another example of the many suffering for the incompetency of the few. You don't need a coupon to buy a converter. But much of the advertising telling us of the switchover has also stressed the coupons. So many likely think they need a coupon to buy a converter. Turn off analog, watch how fast the converter boxes sell!

Matt

January 27, 2009 10:40 AM

Why are we so bent on holding everyone's hands? TV is not a matter of life and death for most people (if any?)

As I wrote to my Senator and Congresswoman, if people don't know about the switch, they aren't watching TV anyway. If they do know and haven't gotten a government subsidized converter yet.... do we really need to hold their hands?

Has America really come to this?

Tim

January 27, 2009 11:42 AM

Proof your posts much, Stephen?

Squeezebox

January 27, 2009 12:33 PM

If you need more boxes than you have coupons, keep your eye on the garage sales. People will get their coupons, get their boxes, and discover that either they can't use their VCR's anymore or that they didn't need them w/cable. The people w/VCR's will have to go out and spend $200+ on a DVR (probably w/Blu-Ray) just to keep recording their soap operas. The un-necessary boxes will end up in garage sales.

d.m.a

January 27, 2009 7:23 PM

after all this time getting message in between program, interfering with the program or shows , now DTV is no ready??, i think that by today the only people is not ready is the ones that dont have a tv,i wonder is because for the convenience of the comunity or for the satelite and cables companys?I think we ready!!

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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