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DTV Delay: Game Still On

Jeff Baumgartner
1/30/2009

11:10 AM -- The House recently killed a bill that would delay the broadcast digital TV transition from February 17 to June 12, but a new (and improved?) bill has reportedly made it through the Senate (again) and could be considered by the House (again) by the middle of next week. (See Senate Backs Digital Delay Bill and Kill Bill 3 .)

Broadcasting & Cable, citing an aide to senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), reports that a new version of the bill has been blessed by the Senate unanimously, and could head to the House by next Wednesday (Feb. 4), where a simple majority vote will get it through. Earlier this week, the bill required a two-thirds House vote, but fell short.

Rockefeller, along with the Obama administration, has been pushing hard for a delay in the transition, holding that millions of citizens remained confused or unready for a transition that is just 18 days away. The failed bill aimed to fix the converter box subsidy program and did allow for broadcasters to make the switch to digital before June 12.

B&C says the latest version of the bill includes elements of the failed bill, but also aims to patch up some issues that kept it from passing a House vote earlier this week, including the addition of a provision that allows public safety organizations to tap into the analog airwaves if a broadcaster decides to make the switch before June 12.

While a delay is certainly a chief concern for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) as they plot their 4G plans, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) says the cable industry is ready to handle the transition regardless of whether the Feb. 17 date stands firm or if lawmakers approve the proposed four-month delay. (See The DTV Yo-Yo and NCTA: Delay or No Delay, Cable's Ready .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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