On its second try, the House voted today to delay the transition to digital TV until June 12. The vote comes less than two weeks before broadcasters were supposed to turn off their analog signals and move over to digital, reports The Washington Post. The complicated part about the bill is that the delay is voluntary, meaning that broadcasters must turn off their analog signals by June 12, but they can do it any time after Feb. 17, as originally planned.
Once the spectrum is officially vacated, it will be used by public safety services and other companies, which purchased rights to the airwaves last year. AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) first opposed a delay, but then revised their feelings to say that if it was short, it would be OK. The big opponent to the delay was Qualcomm (NSDQ: QCOM), which is eager for its MediaFLO subsidiary to roll out its mobile TV service nationwide. Qualcomm said a delay could cost the company tens of millions of dollars, not including lost revenues.
The vote is being considered a victory for Obama and the democrats, who pushed to give consumers more time and resources to get ready for the switch. The delay was encouraged by the administration after the government ran out of $40 coupons for the converter boxes. But some Republicans argued a delay would cause further confusion and cost broadcasters money. Early indications are showing that nearly a fifth of the nation’s TV stations plan to switch to digital this month despite the delay. That would represent 300 of the 1,700 stations in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Report.