White House Expects DTV Delay until June

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Last week the U.S. Senate approved a bill that would delay the United States’ transition to digital television until June 12, 2009—and while a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives last week failed to get the two-thirds majority required under rules adopted for the vote, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs has said the newly-installed Obama administration expects the U.S. House will approve the legislation.

The new vote will apparently use simpler rules that allow for a simple majority vote to pass the bill.

For the last two years, the federal government, television broadcasters, and television services providers have been trumpeting February 17, 2009, as the cutoff date for analog television broadcasts: after that date, folks who rely on over-the-air transmissions for television reception will either need a digital-capable television or a converter box that can pull digital signals in for an older analog TV. The U.S. government has been offering $40 vouchers to help low-income, elderly, and rural households obtain converters, but the program ran out of money earlier in January, potentially leaving many consumers in a lurch. Approximately 20 million Americans rely on over-the-air television broadcasts.

Extending the deadline to June 12, 2009, would give users more time to utilize a re-funded voucher program, and perhaps provider a better time of year for installing new types of television antennas, since many old-style analog TV antennas don’t do a good job pullin in digital signals. However, changing the date may also create consumer confusion—and will also impact 700 MHz spectrum licenses held by the likes of AT&T and Verizon, who are looking to start rolling out mobile broadband services in the swath of airwaves to be vacated by analog TV broadcasts.