President Obama signed the DTV Delay Act into law Wednesday night, postponing the transition to digital TV until June 12 and putting wireless companies' plans to use their 700 MHZ spectrum assets on hold.
Millions of Americans, including those in our most vulnerable communities, would have been left in the dark if the conversion had gone on as planned, and this solution is an important step forward as we work to get the nation ready for digital TV, Obama said in a prepared statement.
The legislation has a mandatory switch date, but many stations are expected to make the switch from analog signals to all-digital before June.
The FCC is currently contending with requests from broadcasters to make the transition early, since they had planned for the transition to occur on its originally scheduled date of Feb. 17.
The signing marked an end to weeks of politics in Washington, where the Senate unanimously approved a delay only to see the move first rejected by the House and then passed on a re-vote.
Wireless companies, including Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility, paid billions of dollars for spectrum in last year's 700 MHZ spectrum auction. They planned to use the spectrum to expand their next-generation networks and deploy Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology.
There are some 1,800 television stations in the United States. Major TV networks such as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are not among those planning to cut off their analog broadcasts next week.
Stations which notified the FCC by Monday of plans to end analog service next week are being allowed to do so.
The government has been providing Americans who rely on over-the-air signals with a 40-dollar coupon to defray the cost of buying a digital converter box.
But the coupon program has run out of funds and, according to research firm Nielsen Co., more than 6.5 million American households are not prepared for the switch.