Coalition Will Fight to Enforce DTV Deadline

Apr 27, 2005  •  Post A Comment

A group of high-tech industry heavyweights, including Intel and Microsoft, on Wednesday announced the formation of a coalition that will lobby in support of a legislative initiative requiring broadcasters to switch to digital TV by Dec. 31, 2006.

“We’re in this to win because it’s important for America,” said Peter Pitsch, Intel’s director of communications policy, at a press briefing announcing the High-Tech DTV Coalition’s official debut.

The group’s announcement comes as some lawmakers are voicing concerns that the 2006 deadline being promoted by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, could alienate voters by forcing them to buy digital-to-analog converters for millions of sets. But the coalition members insisted that they’re committed to finding a way to make the transition work, in part by backing initiatives to provide converters.

At the briefing, Janice Obuchowski, the coalition’s executive director, said an expedited transition would clear the way for the return of broadcast spectrum to the government–frequencies that the high-tech industry wants to use to offer new communications services to consumers.

“It’s a major competitive issue for us,” said Ms. Obuchowski, a former Federal Communications Commission official.

Coalition members said the group does not plan to launch its own political action committee. Representatives also declined to divulge the coalition’s budget. Nonetheless, Mr. Pitsch said the budget was “significant” and that the group has hired lobbyists for the project.

“We’re deadly earnest,” Mr. Pitsch said. “If you look at the companies here, we are–somewhat modestly, I think–the cream of the cream of U.S.-based companies.”

In a April 27 letter to leading lawmakers, Eddie Fritts, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, said broadcasters agree with lawmakers who have expressed concern that a premature end to analog television would be disruptive to millions of Americans.

“The corporate financial interests of a handful of technology companies should not trump the needs of American television viewers,” Mr. Fritts said in his letter.

Other High-Tech DTV Coalition’s members include Alcatel, Aloha Partners, AT&T, Dell, Cisco Systems, IBM, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, T-Mobile, the Information Technology Industry Council, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, the Rural Telecommunications Group, the Business Software Alliance and the Semiconductor Industry Association.