Members of the House this afternoon failed to pass a bill that would delay the transition from analog to digital television signals by four months. Without House approval, the deadline for the switch stands at Feb. 17. Qualcomm is undoubtedly rejoicing, as it stands to lose the most from putting the transition on pause.
Prompted by the fear that millions of consumers would see their televisions go black after the transition (Nielsen puts the number at 6.5 million), President Barack Obama and the Senate have been trying to get the transition date pushed back until June. Such a delay would mean those that leased spectrum in the 700 MHz auction (such as Qualcomm, which wants to broadcast its mobile television service), couldn’t use those airwaves.
Qualcomm’s joy may be short-lived, however, as legislation will likely be reintroduced in the House next week with the possibility for amendments. If it does get voted in, Qualcomm may seek an amendment to try to force nine stations in four metro areas to stop analog broadcasts in February rather than in June, which would allow Qualcomm to launch its MediaFLO service. Congress, meanwhile, would turn its focus to finding money to fund a program that will help consumers prepare for the shift.