US House Cancels Digital TV Transition Delay

Well, you can't say you saw this coming, can you? After the United States Senate approved a four month delay for the digital TV transition that would have effectively moved the cutover date from February 17th to June 12th, the House of Representatives stopped the whole show.

In a shocking decision, the House voted 258 to 168 in favor of the bill, but under the special rules for this vote that required a full two-thirds majority to pass, it didn't quite make it. If it had received the appropriate amount of yeas, the switch -- which will see all local broadcast stations shut their analog signals off in favor of digital waves -- would have been postponed after years of advertising the once-again-current deadline.

According to research firm Nielsen, around 6.5 million Americans still aren't "prepared" for the signal transition. What this means is that they either haven't purchased a new television with an ATSC (digital) tuner or they haven't purchased a DTV converter box (shown below) which enables older sets with NTSC (analog) tuners to accept the new digital waves. Pundits of the delay point out that those 6.5 million have had adequate time to get prepared (and even now, they have just under a month), but considering that the pool of funding for those $40 government vouchers ran dry a few weeks back, some figured that delaying the transition while more money was sourced was a better option for all.

President Obama openly supported delaying the transition even prior to his first day in office, but broadcasters have been screaming that a delay at this stage of the process would cause incredible amounts of headaches. For starters, many local stations had already scheduled tear-down and installation work for next month, and as we all know, rescheduling complex jobs usually comes at a price. Additionally, many peripheral outfits were upset that the analog spaces wouldn't be vacated as previously planned. For instance, Qualcomm -- the company responsible for the MediaFLO technology used to bring mobile TV to cellphones -- has been banking on utilizing the soon-to-be-freed spectrum to expand its own services. Had the delay passed, its outlook for the next four months would have changed rather drastically.

As it stands, it appears that the February 17th transition date is back on track, but considering just how zany this whole ordeal has been over the past few months, we wouldn't be shocked to hear of further changes in the coming weeks.