Can we get there from here?


Multipath interference has nothing on the Advanced Television Systems Committee, which has scrambled the DTV picture even further. The committee dropped its back-to-the-wall defense of its own standard and said it would form a committee to study DTV transmission issues, including whether the standard should be altered to include COFDM. It isn't entirely clear whether that was a political move not to appear obstructionist (given that the FCC had already agreed-however reluctantly-to look into COFDM) or whether it was an acknowledgment that the reception problems of 8-VSB may not be resolvable at the receiver end. Or perhaps it was in the interest of some broadcasters newly into datacasting and eyeing the mobile applications of the COFDM standard.

But let's not get hung up on motives. What is important is that broadcasters and receiver manufacturers work quickly to correct 8-VSB or approve COFDM as an acceptable alternative. It is a tall order, but it goes unfilled at broadcasters'peril. They should probably get a reprieve on the DTV buildout deadlines, but such a reprieve could actually prove a death sentence if it leaves broadcasters (a) at a competitive disadvantage with other media and (b) in danger of losing the DTV spectrum altogether. The Las Vegas Convention center should be converted to a DTV war room. If this isn't resolved soon, the industry may wind up coming up with the ideal buggy-whip standard in a world that has passed it by.