DTV returns to FCC priority list

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With the broadcast-ownership review completed, the digital-TV transition returns
to the top of the Federal Communications Commission's media agenda.

"We are pushing to make sure the transition moves at a quicker clip," FCC
chairman Michael Powell said at the National Show Tuesday morning.

The skepticism that once led many to predict that digital TV would never progress
sufficiently for the government to reclaim old analog spectrum has evaporated
for two reasons, he said.

One, wireless services are taking off so that demand for new frequencies
makes it impossible for broadcasters to hold on to the spectrum indefinitely.

Two, high-definition products are improving in quality and price so that
consumer demand will soon "rocket up."

Digital-TV progress is coming none too late to help the wireless crunch. "There`s
too much spectrum in this [broadcast] space," he said.

When analog frequencies are reclaimed, the spectrum can be used to fulfill
demand not only for wireless-phone services, but also new offerings such as wi-fi
networks and personal digital assistants.

"There's a greater premium on wireless spectrum," Powell said.

Asked by National Cable & Telecommunications Association chairman
Michael Willner whether he foresees the digital-TV transition being completed before
his father, Secretary of State Colin Powell, negotiates Middle East peace,
Powell said the two situations were "similarly intractable," but he'd
"rather have peace."

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