FCC Sets Date for Your New HDTV Purchase
Looks like there are a few more years of life left in those old rabbit-eared TV sets yet. The Federal Communications Commission this week unanimously adopted rules designed to prevent analog-only cable subscribers from losing their local TV stations’ signals for three years after the switch to digital TV occurs.
“This item, at its core, is about the consumer,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in remarks before the vote. “It is about ensuring that all Americans with cable–regardless of whether they are analog or digital subscribers–are able to watch the same broadcast stations the day after the digital transition that they were watching the day before the transition. If the cable companies had their way, you, your mother and father, or your next-door neighbor could go to sleep one night after watching their favorite channel and wake up the next morning to a dark fuzzy screen. This is because the cable operators believe that it is appropriate for them to choose which stations analog cable customers should be able to watch. It is not acceptable as a policy matter or as a legal matter. The 1992 Cable Act is very clear. Cable operators must ensure that all local broadcast stations carried pursuant to this act are “viewable” by all cable subscribers. Thus, they may not simply cut off the signals of these must-carry broadcast stations after the digital transition. The order we adopt today prevents the cable operators from doing just that.”
Cable companies must now either ensure that all subscribers have the equipment necessary to view a digital signal, or convert it to analog format for those who cannot. And so the era of analog television broadcasts will officially end on Feb. 17, 2012, and not the same day in 2009, when U.S. broadcasters make the switch to digital TV.