Digital TV Deadline Looms

The US Congress has already passed a law requiring that analog terrestrial TV broadcasts cease by December 31, 2006, or when 85 percent of American households can receive digital terrestrial broadcasts. Now Congress is looking to push that up to a hard date of April 7, 2006. According to Consumers Union, as many as 80 million televisions in this country are dependent on the analog broadcasts.

Why the rush to turn off the broadcasts? Digital broadcasts take up less “space” in the radio spectrum, compared with analog broadcasts. The government already has given broadcasters frequencies for digital terrestrial broadcasts, which are already in use. When the analog broadcasts stop, that “space” in the radio spectrum can be put to other uses, such as better emergency communications systems for law enforcement and rescue services.

Licenses for those frequencies can also be sold at auction, however, with the prospect of generating $10 billion or more for the government. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is considering a draft provision that would take $3 billion of those funds for a consumer compensation, education, and assistance program that will help with the cost of converter boxes that will allow digital broadcast signals to be displayed on an existing analog television set.

You can learn more about digital and analog terrestrial broadcasts in the upcoming Professor Poor’s Guide to HDTV Broadcast.