Senate to Pass DTV-Switch Advisory

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The Senate Wednesday is expected to pass congressional recommendations on speeding the switch to digital TV as part of an overhaul of the U.S. intelligence network.
The DTV provision is a minor component of the massive bill and is non-binding.
The legislation was expected to be passed late Tuesday by the House. The “sense of the Congress” is intended to give the FCC, broadcasters and the telecom industry an idea of what direction Congress wants to take the DTV transition.
The resolution calls for TV stations to begin all-digital transmissions and return their old analog channels to the government “as early as” Dec. 31, 2006, turning a portion of the old channels  over to local fire, police and other public safety departments.
The intelligence overhaul is being driven by glaring problems in the country's intelligence agencies exposed by the 2001 terrorist attacks. The DTV measure is included in the bill because New York City officials had a hard time communicating during terrorist attacks and believe their continuing communications problems could be alleviated by handing the TV spectrum over to them.
The wording of the resolution is a bit of a victory for broadcasters, who don’t want to be saddled with the obligation, even a recommended one, to give up their old channels so soon.
Without a change in the DTV rules, stations won’t be obligated to give up their analog channels until 85% of their viewers are equipped to receive DTV broadcasts. That penetration level could take a decade or more to reach.
Congress is expected to debate an actual DTV deadline early next year.