Don’t Delay the DTV Transition

The news is full of efforts to delay the transition to digital TV broadcasts, with a bill introduced in Congress to postpone the end of analog broadcasts from February 17 to June 12. In my opinion, this would be a big mistake that will cost the taxpayers and businesses in this country hundreds of millions of dollars that do not have to be wasted.

Companies paid $19 billion to license part of the broadcast spectrum that will be available when the analog broadcasts cease. It will cost them real money to delay the roll-out of the new services that they are counting on to recoup that investment. Any discount on the purchase price, government defense of lawsuits over the delay, or penalties awarded these companies will come straight out of the taxpayer’s pockets at a time that we can least afford it. Local broadcasters will be faced with the added expense of maintaining and operating both the analog and digital broadcasts for an extra four months, which is a waste of their money and considerable electrical energy. And these broadcasters have already signed contracts with service providers to make the switch in February; who knows what the cost of delaying those contracts will be.

The reason to delay the transition is so that the millions of Americans who are not prepared for the switch will have extra time to get ready. Yet I contend that the most of the people who are not ready today still will not be ready in June. Make the switch now, and help them afterwards. The majority of calls to TV stations and help centers in communities that have switched over early have been from elderly women. I don’t see how waiting four months is likely to make this segment any more aware or technically savvy about the transition.

The delay is a feel-good measure that sounds as though it’s going to help prevent the poor and the elderly from losing their TV service. The fact is that the delay will not change the outcome a great deal, and it will cost many people a lot of extra money even though we’ll end up in the same situation in June. As a result, I oppose any delay in ending the analog TV broadcasts.