It's almost official: Starting Feb. 18, 2009, millions of televisions in American households will go black unless they're outfitted to receive all-digital broadcasts.
The deadline became final on Wednesday as part of a broader spending bill that the U.S. Senate approved by an ultra-thin margin. Stuck in a deadlock over proposals involving Medicaid and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the legislation earned approval only after Vice President Dick Cheney flew back from a Middle East trip to push the 50-50 vote over the edge.
The 2009 deadline will not affect the vast majority of Americans who already subscribe to cable or satellite TV. But households relying on an antenna to receive "over-the-air" analog broadcasts must acquire a digital tuner to continue receiving TV shows.
The Senate's action effectively ends months of debate and solidifies a compromise politicians made this weekend with the U.S. House of Representatives. Earlier versions of the Senate bill had called for an April 7, 2009 deadline, while the House had pushed for Dec. 31, 2008, as the cutoff date.
By the time of the 2009 switch, the government will have auctioned the remaining spectrum to companies interested in deploying wireless technologies. The proceeds are estimated at about $10 billion by the Congressional Budget Office. The auction is supposed to begin no later than Jan. 7, 2008.
Wednesday's vote won immediate praise from the technology industry, which sees the imminent auction as a breeding ground for business opportunities. Credit and More Information: CNet News