House delays Digital TV transition to June

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The House has voted in favour of pushing back the digital television transition, originally pencilled in on February 17, to now happen during June 12 when all stations must broadcast in digital, ditching analogue television in the country, and giving the free airwaves to other companies.

Failing to secure a two-thirds majority in the previous bill, this bill passed with 264 votes against 158 votes, not needing to have a two-thirds majority. This also follows the recent approval by the Senate. clearing the way for Barack Obama to sign the bill into law.

Unlike Australia’s Digital TV transition (which will happen between 2010 and 2013), the United States’ transition is mandated by Congress – meaning that Congress can change it since it created it in the first place. Also, unlike Australia, all stations must change over, not all the stations in a broadcast area.

Once the bill is signed by Obama, this will mean Verizon and AT&T will have to wait until that date when they would use the freed-up airwaves to roll out their next-generation wireless internet products. While both support the short-term delay; Qualcomm, another company that has access to the freed up spectrum, has said that it will incur more expenses and lost revenue because of it.

Among the supporters, according to the Democrats, this also had the support from the big four free-to-air television stations, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox; and a number of public safety organisations.

However, this does not mean that the station has to change on June 12, they can switch off at any time between now and June 12, as long it has been cleared by the Federal Communications Commission (or FCC). However, many stations have already indicated that they will be switching off on February 17, or even earlier.

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