Chicago (IL) - Time is winding down on the switch to digital television, and soon analog signals will no longer be broadcast. Analysts claim that over 6.5 million households are not yet prepared for the switch. Congress is ready to pull the plug and institute a delay until June 12, however this could pose problems of its own.
The Obama administration is working for the delay in an effort to give the government additional time to repair a program which ran out of funding. Before requesting Americans could receive aid in the form of coupons which would be used to purchase digital converter boxes for their analog televisions, the plan failed. This has left many congressmen feeling like they've let down the public.
The vote comes early next week to extend the digital switch deadline.
If the delay occurs, it could be a huge slap in the face to wireless companies. In addition, all of the public safety agencies waiting to utilize the airwaves would be leaned on heavily if the analog signals aren’t made available. Broadcasters could take a significant monetary hit if the switch is postponed - and that's not something greatly needed in this economy.
The government has spent over $1 billion in an attempt to make sure consumers are educated regarding the switch to digital television. The entire duration of the campaign, it has been emphasized that analog signals would be shut off on February 17, 2009.
Currently the Consumer Electronics Association claims that consumer awareness rates are above 90 percent. So, why is there even a need for a delay?
A delay would be damaging as far as cost is concerned. The government would be forced to put more money into new efforts designed to notify and educate the remaining public. Those who already know might also see it as a nuisance and another "in their living room" example of government's ineptness.
Television stations would carry the burden of being forced to continuing broadcasting their programming in digital and analog until the switch actually occurs. To combat this, the Senate bill - which would enable the delay - would still give television stations the option of shutting down their analog signals early.
Wireless companies are quite nervous about a delay because they’ve paid good money to acquire the analog spectrum and have plans already in motion for the planned switchover date. AT&T and Verizon won licenses to the majority of the spectrum, and though they were both hesitant at first, have both decided that they support the limited delay.
Qualcomm on the other hand strongly opposes the delay due to the fact that they have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into MediaFLO - a new wireless service to be offered by the company.
Emergency responders have planned to utilize the spectrum from communication networks which would give police officers, firemen, and emergency medical response teams the ability to communicate amongst themselves - not only in their own communities, but also in those close by. Currently, most of these agencies work off their own radio systems and are incapable of communicating between agencies.
The current bill pushing for an extension would let public safety agencies utilize the vacated spectrum as it is made available, however access would not be guaranteed until June.