US DTV Deadline Debate

06 May 2005

Legislation to finalize the 100% switchover from analog to digital television in the US is expected shortly.

Republican senators, led by House Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton, are pushing for a December 31, 2006 deadline.

Under current law it can happen at that time only if 85% of households are ready to receive digital signals, either via a digital TV set or a converter.

Some of the proceeds of an analog bandwidth sell-off could be used to fund converters for low-income households or those who only have access to free broadcast-TV. Vouchers and rebates are being considered.

A study earlier this year by the government's Accountability Office estimated a converter-box program would cost anywhere between $460 million (€355m; £242m) and $10.6 billion dependent on prices and numbers.

The sell-off of the analog spectrum currently used by broadcasters could raise between $20bn and $30bn for the US Treasury.

Barton says he will meet with other senators to hammer out details and to smooth over differences of opinion. He indicates he is willing to make a small move on the transition date but he believes it must be firmed up to "offer certainty to the high-tech community".

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff