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Comment Re:What I don't understand (Score 1) 334

One could argue that the USA did do a gradual switchover. A series of deadlines were set for stations to begin digital transmission. The largest cities were required to begin digital first, gradually rolling to the smaller communities. The station I work for has been broadcasting a digital signal since 2002. Viewers could have begun buying digital receivers years ago. (and many did.) What was supposed to happen in two weeks was the final shutdown of the analog transmitters. (do note that in the USA common transmitter sites are relatively rare. (by comparison to European countries) Here in Nashville, there are eight different transmitter sites serving 13 stations. That situation is not unusual. It's not a matter of converting one site from analog to digital and being done with it.)

Comment Re:Huh? (Score 1) 318

I don't know where he got that. A paragraph of the original bill explicitly allowed stations to sign off at any date earlier than June 12th provided they meet notification requirements already in the FCC regulations.

There is no change in that paragraph in the new bill.

I haven't read the entire new bill but I'm not sure there's any difference between the old and new bills. I think all they're doing is running it through the regular committee system so it only needs a 1/2 majority, not 2/3, to pass.

Comment Re:The old bill allowed analogs off early too. (Score 1) 318

You have to announce termination 30 days in advance.

The grey area, as I see it, is that the rules are changing in midstream. Today, if you plan to go off on 2/17, you don't need to notify anyone -- your analog license is automatically canceled on 2/18.

After this bill is enacted (presumably sometime next week) you have to give 30 days' notice.

But there are fewer than 30 days before 2/17.

Several hundred stations have already given notice of their intent to shut down their analogs on schedule, on the 17th. Most did not give notice 30 days in advance though - as a delay wasn't on the table that early. There was no reason to believe any further action would be required of stations which wished to go off in February.

I have to presume the FCC will relax the notice requirement for those stations that begin notification promptly (within a day or two) of the enactment of this bill.

Comment Re:What is the problem? (Score 1) 318

I would venture a guess what triggered this was problems in the DTV coupon program.

This program offers each household up to two coupons. (in the form of cards, similar to a debit card) Each coupon could be redeemed for US$40 off the price of a digital receiver. Digital receivers are selling for around US$60-65.

The coupon program has more or less run out of money. "more or less" because they're finding many, many coupons are being ordered but never redeemed. They do have an expiration period. (90 days) I suppose the theory is that if the analog shutdown is delayed, more unused coupons will expire and more money will be available to issue more coupons and more viewers can use those coupons to get converted in time.

That said, most Americans are more than willing to pay more than $60 every month for cable or satellite service, it seems unlikely that a one time payment of $60 for a converter box is going to be a problem for most families.

(for those families for whom $60 is a problem, I have sympathy... although they really should have acted sooner...)

There is also some concern that viewers in some places are having trouble receiving all the channels they were getting in analog. Problem is, in many cases that's because:

The digital signals are suffering interference from analog transmitters.

Or, they're having to operate on reduced power to avoid interfering with analog service.

Or, the station plans to use its current analog antenna for its permanent digital service -- is currently on a lower interim antenna -- and of course cannot switch to full power until it can turn its analog transmitter off.

Of course delaying the analog shutdown only delays the delivery of a full digital signal to these viewers!

Comment The old bill allowed analogs off early too. (Score 3, Informative) 318

The original bill didn't require analog stations to stay on until June either.

(if the link breaks, try this PDF link)

See Sec. 4, paragraph (a) which states in part: "Nothing in this Act is intended to prevent a licensee of a television broadcast station from terminating the broadcasting of such station's analog television signal (and continuing to broadcast exclusively in the digital television service) prior to the date established by law under section 3002(b) of the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 for termination of all licenses for full-power television stations in the analog television service (as amended by section 2 of this Act) so long as such prior termination is conducted in accordance with the Federal Communications Commission's requirements in effect on the date of enactment of this Act,.."

(typical government wordiness)

What it means is that before this bill was introduced, stations could sign off their analogs before Feb. 17th upon giving 30 days notice to the FCC and the viewers. Should the bill pass into law, paragraph (a) ensures they can still sign off before June 12th, again provided they give 30 days notice.

Several hundred stations have already given such notice. Including most of the major-network affiliates in Nashville, New Orleans, and Wichita among other cities.

The proposed new bill (PDF version) contains the same paragraph.

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