As Congress contemplates broadband access as part of President-elect Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan, Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has filed a bill that would push back the transition from analog to digital signals for television broadcasters from Feb. 18 until June 12, 2009. A four-month delay won’t be terribly detrimental to AT&T’s plans to deploy LTE, but will likely cause problems for Verizon, Cox Communications and Qualcomm, as we detailed in a story earlier this week. With its plans to turn on mobile television services in 100 markets on Feb. 18, Qualcomm will face an ever longer wait for its nationwide MediaFLO network.
Congress is likely to condone such a wait, even as industry players stew, because to date some people have been unable to cash in on a coupon program that takes $40 off the cost of a converter box that enables older analog televisions to receive the digital signals. Hopefully Congress will allocate funding for more coupons and these people will rise up from their couches and pick up their boxes. Because while television is important, wireless innovations such as white spaces and LTE, which are being kept on hold while we wait for this conversion, represent the future. And that future can’t get here soon enough.