The House of Representatives defeated a bill to delay the digital TV transition. Instead, the transition deadline of Feb. 17 will remain in place.
By a 258-168 vote, the House defeated the measure, which had passed the Senate unanimously on Monday. The Senate had wanted to push the transition until early June. House Republicans warned that a delay would confuse customers and put an undue burden on wireless companies and public safety agencies that were waiting to use the 700 MHz spectrum that would become available once the transition was complete.
The transition program was stalled earlier this month when demand for the $40 coupon that Congress had been issuing to consumers to buy a digital converter box had outstripped supply. Converter boxes will allow consumers with old analog televisions to continue receiving television signals following the switch. The Nielson Co. estimates that 6.5 million households are still unprepared for the switch. President Obama had called for a delay and Democrats on Capitol Hill had supported the move.
Wireless companies, notably Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility, had paid billions of dollars for spectrum in the 700 MHz band last year in hopes of using the spectrum to build out their networks for Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. AT&T, whose LTE deployment plans are not as aggressive as Verizon's, had originally supported a delay, while Verizon opposed it. Verizon later reversed its position and said it would support a short delay as well.
Qualcomm is one company that will be pleased if there is no delay. The chipmaker, which also owns 700 MHz spectrum, revealed in a filing with the FCC last week that it was ready to begin transmitting its MediaFLO mobile broadcast TV service in 40 markets immediately following the transition.
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