This was a good call, albeit it doesnt solve the underlying technical issue, which is lack of coverage, which could result in no OTA (over the air) availability for some, and drastically reduced selection for others. In some cases, its possible a high gain antenna, tower, and amplifier may be adequate, in others… it will take a change in the laws, the private sector cannot be expected to solve this on their own.
The reason being, to solve the problem of blackout areas, assuming the end customer has done everything on his end possible, it will require one or more of the following. Greater transmitter power (a regulatory issue… and many digital transmitters run at significantly lower power than their analog predecessors), more translators (low powered tv transmitters operating on unused channels to provide specific coverage to a local area), and/or potentialy a requirement that broadcasters must ensure their coverage area remains the same on digital as it did on analog.
The end result, hugh cost increases for tv stations, and potentially tons of regulatory hoops to jump through… then add in an assurance of virtually nil increase in market size, and its not justifiable. Ie, providing service to 1000 existing viewers in a market of hundreds of thousands just doesnt add up.
Now some would say tough, folks should just switch to satellite or cable, but in todays economy, more and more are going to OTA, rather than sat or cable. Then add in the fact this whole deal was done, not so much as to increase quality for the average Joe, but to bring in huge revenue in spectrum auctions for Uncle Sam. Sure, in some areas, clear spectrum is rare, but for vast portions of the US, its amazing how little spectrum is really used, and for where it is in use, how inefficiently it is used.
And yet others will say, who needs OTA TV, its not a right or anything… well there is a public safety aspect to this. Tornado warnings, and other emergency comms are typically disseminated via TV. Sure, radio does some, as does even the internet, but the primary method is via TV. To drop the coverage from entire communities is just asking for liability headaches should something bad happen, and thats apart from any injury or loss of life aspects.
Then add in the 4 month delay, and wow, we are right in the middle of Tornado season. At least the bill buys more time to get more of the tech issues solved, and it is much easier to do antenna work in the summer than it is now. On the other hand, the way things normally go, it will just be a delay, and until analog goes away, we really wont know how bad things truly are…. and then the mad scramble begins. Hopefully more and more testing will be done, and heat can be applied to the legislature, well before segments of rural America go completely dark in the midst to summer.