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Qualcomm speaks up on DTV transition

MediaFLO operator asks that cut-over date stay put, but if the deadline must be extended, that Boston, Houston, Miami and San Francisco be exempted

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Qualcomm has finally broken its silence on the proposed delays to the Feb. 17 digital television (DTV) transition date. On Monday, Qualcomm sent a letter to House and Senate lawmakers, asking them to keep the transition date in place for all broadcasters, and if that isn’t possible, to enforce the original deadline on nine TV stations in four major markets, thus allowing it to launch a large portion of its MediaFLO expansion on Feb. 18 as planned.

Qualcomm wants stations in Boston, Houston, Miami and San Francisco made exceptions from any deadline extension, allowing it to fill in major holes in its MediaFLO mobile TV network in February. Qualcomm revealed in an FCC filing last week that its planned expansion of MediaFLO to cover 200 million people was front-loaded, including a massive launch of networks covering 40 million people in 15 new markets within days of the transition date. Any delay in DTV transition would not only leave those networks sitting idle but delay marketing and advertising campaigns it or its carrier partners may have planned. Excepting Boston, Houston, Miami and San Francisco would still mean Qualcomm could not launch in 11 other new markets as well as expand coverage to fill gaps in 25 current MediaFLO markets, but it would patch the most glaring holes in its nationwide footprint.

“For three years now, Qualcomm has invested hundreds of millions of dollars getting ready for Feb. 17, 2009, when the DTV transition is to end, and we will finally be able to launch our MediaFLO service all over the country,” Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs wrote in the letter to the chairman and ranking Republican members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation and House Energy and Commerce committees. “In particular, our current plan is that on February 18th and the next few days thereafter, when the TV stations will finally have vacated our spectrum, we will turn on 100 transmitters all over the country. … To be clear, any delay of the DTV transition will prevent 40 million Americans from enjoying our MediaFLO service and will penalize Qualcomm for having acted as a responsible FCC licensee in following the law and making the investments necessary to turn on our transmitters as soon as the DTV transition ends on Feb. 17, 2009. For these reasons we believe that it would be unfair, unjust and inappropriate to delay the DTV transition beyond February 17. 2009.”

The voices calling for a delay of the transition date have grown louder in recent weeks. Earlier this month then-President-Elect Obama’s transition team called for a deadline extension to give more time to the millions of Americans that have still not purchased digital TVs or converter boxes to prepare for the analog cut-off. A government program that distributes $40 coupons to pay for the converter boxes ran out of funds last month, putting millions on a waiting list. Last week, Senate commerce committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced legislation that would extend the DTV transition date to June 12. House commerce committee chairman Henry Waxman has taken up a similar proposal, saying it will be one of the first orders of business for his committee this session.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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