[opendtv] News: DTV Boxes Could Cost $1 Billion

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: OpenDTV Mail List <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 06:16:33 -0400


DTV Boxes Could Cost $1 Billion

By Bill McConnell -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/21/2004 5:12:00 PM

House Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton 
(R-Texas) predicted Wednesday that the government will have to fork 
over $1 billion or so to make sure Americans who don't subscribe to 
cable or satellite TV can continue to receive free over-the-air 
television when broadcasters switch to all-digital programming.

  Not exactly chump change, he said, but worth the reward of speeding 
the day when the government reclaims their old analog channels and 
auctions them off to wireless companies and other wealthy customers.

  "One billion is nothing to scoff at," he said during a hearing on 
DTV Wednesday, but reauctioning the frequencies "should bring in many 
more times that amount to the Treasury."

  Barton has been pushing colleagues to set a "hard" deadline of Dec. 
31, 2006 for reclaiming analog channels, rather than waiting for 
until the U.S. meets the FCC's current open-ended deadline.

  Such a relatively quick switch to all-DTV would require the 
government to buy $100 converter boxes for the 10 million homes that 
will not have either a DTV set capable of receiving over-the-air 
signals or a pay-TV subscription that will keep the programming 

  The notion of a hard deadline is gaining converts on Capitol Hill 
because wireless companies and emergency departments are clamoring 
for more communications channels.

Also, the government is predicted to be able to raise billions, even 
tens of billions, to help close the budget deficit if an auction is 
held soon.

  Motorola, which hopes to create new wireless and DTV markets for 
itself, pledged to do what it can to move things along. The company 
is offering to have a $67 converter on the market if the government 
completes the DTV switch by early 2007.

  If Motorola makes good on its offer, the government could subsidize 
converters for one-third less than Barton is predicting.

  Broadcasters oppose any hard date for completing the transition 
unless they are assured cable carriage for all of their multicast 
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