Martin Backing DTV Transition Trials

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Washington – Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin signaled Monday that he is now willing to conduct the switch to all-digital broadcast TV in a few test markets prior to the nationally scheduled conversion on February 17, 2009.

Martin tossed his support behind the idea in same-day letters he swapped with FCC Democrat Michael Copps, who has been pushing for small-market testing since late last year.

“I believe that you have presented some interesting ideas that I am in favor of pursuing, including switching a small number of test markets to all-digital service before Feb. 17, 2009,” Martin’s letter said.

On Feb. 17, 2009, every full-power TV station in the country must cease analog transmission, an event that has not just Copps but many policymakers in Washington concerned that millions of unprepared consumers will lose service even briefly as they scramble for digital reception equipment.

For his part, Martin told reporters in January while attending the Consumer Electronics Show that he did not believe there was sufficient time to prepare and conduct DTV trials.

“There’s only a year left before the actual transition. There haven’t been any communities that have yet come forward and said, 'Hey, we want to be the experimental community to have this occur,’ ” Martin said two months ago.

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