I have mentioned before that the DTV transition has been so highly publicized over the last year or more that I can’t see how anyone can claim they didn’t know that the transition was set to occur on February 17th.
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Despite the highly publicized nature of the transition, a huge number of Americans were not ready for the transition. Citing the unprepared viewers, President Obama asked that the DTV transition be delayed until June 12, 2009 to give more time for Americans to prepare. The Senate unanimously voted the bill through for approval by the House earlier this month where it was defeated after not receiving the required 2/3 vote to approve the bill.
The Senate then took the bill and reworked it, in part by changing the voting standards to require only a simple majority vote. Yesterday the House approved the DTV delay bill on a vote of 264-158. Obama is expected to sign the bill in to law very soon and the digital transition will be delayed until June 12th.
Part of the reason for the delay in the bill cited by supporters is that the program for providing the coupons that would offset the cost of the converters many of the unprepared Americans needed was out of funds.
The reason the funds ran out was that many of the coupons issued early in the program went unused and expired after 90-days from receipt. Those opposed to delaying the digital transition pointed out the confusion it would cause consumers who did prepare for the transition and the cost to TV stations who have had to invest significantly in equipment to move to all digital broadcasts.
The vacated spectrum left over after the switch to digital broadcasts will be used primarily for new wireless services like broadband Internet connectivity with most of the bandwidth owned by Verizon and AT&T. The two wireless firms had already agreed to the change in the digital transition date and their licenses were to be extended to cover additional months to offset the delay.
One of the smaller spectrum owners, Qualcomm, wasn't onboard with the transition though. Qualcomm is using a small chunk of spectrum it purchased to broadcast 15 different mobile TV stations. The company had all it needed for the TV programming in place and had plans to launch the service on February 18th. The delay could hurt the company not only financially, but with the poor performance of Qualcomm's stock in the current global economy, the firm may have a hard time simply continuing to be viable until it can launch its mobile TV service. The TV service is what the company is hoping will help turn its current financial condition around.