Tag Archives | FCC

House Fails to Pass Digital TV Deadline Extension

Predicta TVIf you’re reading these words, you’re all set for the end of over-the-air analog TV–you’ve got a reasonably modern TV and/or cable or satellite service. (Actually, some of you seem to be getting your TV over the Internet.) But there are those who aren’t ready for the planned February 17th switchover to digital transmissions–in part, it seems, because of screwups with the discount coupons for converter boxes. That’s why President Obama and other support an extension of analog service to June 12th, and why the Senate passed a bill approving the extension on Monday.

Today, however, the House of Representatives failed to fall in line: It didn’t pass the bill. Unless someone throws a hail-mary pass to extend the deadline through other means–and it sounds like that could still happen–some Americans will turn on their TVs come mid-February and find nothing but static.

I’ve been trying to figure out whether I’m in favor of the delay or not, and I’m still grappling with the issues. Over at ZDNet, my friend Sam Diaz makes a cogent argument in favor of just pulling the trigger on analog and moving on: There’s been tons of advance warning about the switchover, and some folks will fail to be ready even if you delayed the transition to 2019. And a delay would cost the broadcasting industry millions.

But the people who are still receiving analog TV are, almost by definition, the most helpless of TV watchers. They’re technophobes. Or people who watch very little TV but might need it in case of emergency. Or folks so poor that the fact they can’t get a $40 converter coupon is an obstacle.

I keep having these visions of my grandparents fiddling with their little portable TV and wondering why they can’t tune in Lawrence Welk, Gunsmoke, and the CBS Evening News. My grandma and grandpa have been gone a long time, but there are plenty of other grandparents out there, and some of them will be flummoxed by the transition.

Of course, you could make the argument that the best way to get stragglers on board is to deprive them of TV by completing the damn switchover: If analog broadcasts disappear on Feburary 17th, it’ll nudge some folks to head out to RadioShack and buy the coverter boxes they should have known about a long time ago.

Anyhow, I’m going to throw the decision in your lap while I continue to think about it. What’s your take?


Copps to Serve As Acting FCC Chief

mjc-flagPresident Obama has selected current Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps as acting head of the Federal Communications Commission in the wake of Kevin Martin’s resignation, the Administration announced late Thursday. The Commissioner has served with the FCC since 2001.

The selection of Copps is somewhat interesting, and his philosophy is quite different from that of Martin. He opposes media consolidation and often has come down on the opposite site of his predecessor when it comes to deregulation, so as long as Copps is the head of the FCC, expect things to be run a bit differently.

You may remember my earlier reporting indicating Julius Genachowski would head the FCC: apparently that is still rumor as it has not been announced yet, nor are any confirmation hearings scheduled.

Obama still needs to fill two more spots: there are two vacancies, one Democratic and one Republican. Typically, the majority in the agency is held by the party holding power in the White House.

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FCC At Odds With Obama Over DTV Switch

While the Obama team has asked Congress to delay the February 17 switch to digital television, FCC chairman Kevin Martin has publicly come out against any type of postponement. His argument is somewhat sound: he suggests that any delay could confuse consumers, and possibly have the negative side effect of giving consumers a reason not to take any future deadline seriously. Messaging for almost a year now has advertised the date, and media outlets are increasingly ramping up their coverage of the switch. Indeed, the digital converter box coupon program is in trouble, and as much as 7 percent of those who receive over-the-air programming may not be ready, but is it our fault that they procrastinated?

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Julius Genachowski to Chair FCC

Reports indicate President-elect Obama is set to tap Juilus Genachowski to head the Federal Communications Commision. Genachowski has experience with the agency: he served as general counsel to former chair Reed Hunt, who served during the Clinton Administration.

Obama and Genachowski are close associates. He was the President-elect’s chief technology counsel and they were classmates at Harvard Law School. Obama likely picked him due to his previous experience in technology, as he has served in an executive capacity at IAC.

Interest groups like Free Press seem to be happy with Obama’s selection.

“Under Julius Genachowski’s leadership, the FCC’s compass would point toward the public interest,” the organization’s executive director Josh Silver said. “The challenges facing the next FCC are enormous — a vast digital divide, an open Internet in jeopardy, consolidated media ownership, newsrooms in economic freefall and entrenched industries invested in maintaining the status quo.”


FCC Chair Backs White Space Usage Plans

Those who have been looking to use so-called “white space” for national broadband wireless Internet got a huge boost Wednesday. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has thrown his support behind those plans in a report issued by the commission. Better yet, he plans to bring the issue up for vote at the next meeting on November 4.

For those who need a quick primer on what white space is, here goes. The term refers to unused portions of spectrum between assigned blocks, in this case referring to the frequencies between television channels. A group calling itself the White Spaces Coalition — made up of companies including Microsoft, Google and others — has been lobbying the FCC to open it up for use for a high speed wireless Internet network.

These frequencies would be open to anyone, thus allowing companies to freely develop products to send data over long distances: the companies say these frequencies are perfect for that.

Naturally, the telecom industry says this is a threat. Lobbyists there argue that the technology would cause TV interference. It seems as if the FCC disagrees. While its tests did seem to indicate there would be some interference issues, apparently it was not enough to cause it to block the White Space Coalition’s efforts.

Further tests are apparently underway to ensure interference is minimized.

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