Senate OKs DTV Delay and Offers $9B for Broadband

The Senate yesterday approved a bill to delay the transition to digital television signals until June 12, and the House is expected to approve similar legislation today. While Qualcomm (s QCOM) may be gnashing its teeth over the passage of the delay, which the company says could cost it millions, the other players holding spectrum currently occupied by the analog television signals likely are focused on the Senate’s version of another bill — the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.

The reason? The Senate version promises $9 billion for broadband access, while the House version promises a mere $6 billion. Notably, however, the Senate’s version doesn’t include a provision for open access, instead opting for language that requires “nondiscrimination and network interconnection” by grant recipients. On the other hand, a proposed amendment to the Senate version offers tax credits of 10 and 20 percent that will likely favor large incumbents — something the House version does not have.

The amendment proposed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller classifies current generation broadband speeds as 5Mbps down and 1Mbps up. Next-generation speeds are defined as at least 100Mbps down and 20Mbps up (a huge boost from the House version and likely to get everyone but those deploying fiber to the home up in arms).  The amendment would classify wireless broadband for rural areas as having speeds of at least 3Mbps down and 768Kbps up.

The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees plan to consider the measures today. The House is expected to consider its bill on Wednesday.