Washington -- Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is pushing to end analog-TV service in 2009 in an effort to reduce the financial burden on the federal government to ensure a smooth transition to all-digital transmission.
Some in the House and the Senate favor 2007 or 2008 because some of the spectrum recovered from analog-TV stations can be more quickly reallocated to police and emergency squads clamoring for a clean swath of the airwaves.
Although Stevens favors getting spectrum into the hands of first-responders, he is supporting 2009 because it would maximize revenue from the auction of analog-TV spectrum and give consumers additional time to purchase digital TVs and set-tops.
“The later the hard date is, the more digital televisions people will have bought on their own … and fewer set-top boxes, obviously, would be needed,” Stevens said in a speech here to the Association of Maximum Service Television.
The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to vote on Stevens' plan Oct. 19. He said nothing had been decided on whether to force cable to carry all free programming services offered by digital-TV stations.
The federal government is likely going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, to subsidize digital set-tops for some or all of the 20 million households that rely on free TV. Stevens said subsidy recipients needed to help defray box costs.
“I don’t how much it will be -- $25, $20, $5, whatever it is -- but we want a small co-payment, not to raise the money but to make sure people understand that this is a process that is very expensive and everyone must pay part of the cost,” he told reporters after his speech.