Digital Transition Wins Approval

Mar 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The transition to digital television is moving to the next level.

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration, a branch of the Commerce Department, has won approval from the federal Office of Management & Budget to proceed with the next step of the transition.

In a news conference at 11 a.m. EDT Monday, the NTIA will unveil rules detailing the standards for set-top converter boxes and eligibility for government discount coupons to help pay for them.

The rules set technical standards for the digital-to-analog converter boxes necessary to watch TV on analog sets after the transition, which is due to take place Feb. 17, 2009.

In the most obvious immediate impact, issuing of the rules means full-scale manufacturing of the converter boxes can start. That potentially permits homes with analog sets to make the transition to digital even before the formal switchover, allowing them to receive broadcasters’ multicast signals.

The rules also will spell out which households are eligible for coupons. That means NTIA can proceed with hiring a firm to distribute the coupons.

The government has set aside $1.7 billion to provide $40 coupons to consumers to buy boxes, but that won’t be enough to cover all analog TVs. Democrats have criticized the funding levels.

The rules are expected to limit the coupons to homes without cable or satellite and then to limit the number of coupons those homes can receive.

(Editor: Horowitz)