said broadcasters had to transition to the digital spectrum
by Dec. 31, 2006 “or” when 85 percent of TV viewers in any
given market had a digital TV set. The ‘or,’ in my opinion,
is a fatal flaw
Joe Barton, R-Texas, Commerce Committee
Hearing witnesses have cautioned
the House Telecommunications Subcommittee that a firm deadline
for completing the switch from analog to digital television is
“Every year that we wait is another year too late,” said Steve
Souder, director of the Montgomery County, Md., 911 Emergency
In a subcommittee hearing Thursday, the high-tech and public
safety community backed a proposed deadline of Dec. 31, 2008.
The hearing focused on draft legislation that would set a 2008
deadline, require a consumer education campaign, and require
cable operators to carry broadcasters’ digital signal.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton,
R-Texas, said a “big failure” in current law is driving the need
for legislation. In 1997, Congress said broadcasters had to
transition to the digital spectrum by Dec. 31, 2006 “or” when 85
percent of TV viewers in any given market had a digital TV set.
“The ‘or,’ in my opinion, is a fatal flaw,” Barton said. “If we
don’t eliminate that ‘or,’ I’m not sure this county’s ever going
to get the digital transition.” Barton said he would be willing
to support a limited equipment supply program, so long as it is
targeted toward low-income households.
Consumers would benefit by moving television broadcasts from the
current analog spectrum to a digital spectrum. Once the analog
spectrum is available, not only would consumers be able to
receive new Internet and communication services, but police and
firefighters could improve the radio systems that are vital to
their lifesaving missions.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the subcommittee,
said it would be a failure if the country doesn’t complete the
digital transition: “Failure for the broadcasters who have each
invested millions of dollars to convert. Failure for the
manufacturers who have been encouraged to produce the sets.
Failure for those consumers expecting new advances and better
quality to improve their lives, whether in new devices and
technology or public safety. And failure for the taxpayers
expecting more than $10 billion for the sale of the analog
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., ranking member of the
subcommittee, said some disagreements over the bill are “not
Several witnesses said that Congress should set a firm deadline
for completing digital transition. Representatives of the cable,
retail and consumer electronics industries, along with a
representative from the 911 system, said a firm deadline was
Accelerating the digital transition is the most important thing
Congress can do to improve broadband deployment, particularly
for rural areas, said Peter Pitsch, communications policy
director for Intel. “The ability to use TV frequencies would
accelerate growth, expand the reach, reduce the cost and improve
the quality of broadband wireless service,” Pitsch said.
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