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The Great Digital Delay

23181544This morning, in an unanimous vote, the U.S. Senate has agreed to delay the government mandated digital television transition. The target has been moved from the original February 17th date to June 12th.

(Updated: The bill has been voted down in the house. More info at the bottom.)

Media reports have been all over the map, with sources suggesting anywhere from 5 million to 20 million US households are unprepared for the transition.  There have also been reports of as many as 2.5 million on the FCC’s waiting list for their converter box coupon program.  13.5 million coupons have been passed out, but it’s estimated that roughly half have not been used.  The coupons carry a 90 day expiration, and as the unused coupons expire those on the waiting list will get a shot at one.

President Obama has called for an additional $850 million as part of his stimulus package to provide additional funding to the FCC coupon program.

The FCC has of course already auctioned off and collected it’s nearly $20 billion dollars to re-license the wireless spectrum that would have been freed in just 3 weeks.  (Why again, does the FCC need another $850 million of taxpayer’s dollars to cover the coupon shortfall? Anyway…)

Major players AT&T and Verizon will have to wait until June to begin using their newly acquired slice of the airwaves, though this morning’s bill includes a 116 day extension to the end of their original licenses as compensation.

(Shameless plug warning: who needs OTA anyway, when you’ve got Artvoice TV?)

Update, Wednesday Jan 28: Despite the unanimous vote and the support from President Obama, it turns out this bill was not a shoo-in after all. Because the bill had been fast-tracked in the House, it required 2/3rds votet here before reaching the President’s desk; however, this morning it was shot down by a 256 to 168 vote. So it’s not over yet folks. The House may vote next week for a second time on the issue. In the mean time, we can say the great digital delay… has been delayed.