Government Pushes Digital TV Migration

President George W. Bush's most recent budget proposal included a new plan that could help speed the transition of TV broadcasts from analog to digital, but the plan won't find many fans among broadcasters. Bush is proposing that, beginning in 2007, broadcasters pay a $500 million fee for the privilege of using analog TV signals. When Congress planned the digital broadcast migration in 1997, it enacted legislation that required broadcasters to switch their TV signals from analog to digital by the end of the 2006 or when 85 percent of American TV viewers could receive digital signals--whichever comes later. The transition has been slow; many broadcasts are dragging their feet and say that the 85 percent number is an unreachable goal. The new plan is designed to jump-start the industry into a realistic and aggressive transition, as well as help fill government budget deficits. The government hopes to auction the valuable frequencies that analog TV currently uses for other telecommunication applications, such as high-speed wireless Internet. The auction is projected to raise as much as $100 billion. The broadcasting industry has a lot of powerful political support, so don't expect it to give up without a fight. Let's hope the possibility of a large fee will get the ball rolling more quickly

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