Congressional policymakers are seeking a way to accelerate the nation's transition to digital television (DTV) and to expedite the transfer of certain radio frequency channels from the broadcast industry to public safety and commercial users no later than 2009. The Congressional Budget Office has informally estimated a value of $12.5 billion from auction proceeds for these commercial channels; many believe the amount could be higher. Broadcasters are holding this valuable spectrum (channels 52-69) but would be required to relinquish it after the transition to DTV is achieved. Without a hard deadline, the transition to digital television has been delayed and the spectrum has not been made available for other uses. Congress anticipates applying some of the proceeds received from auctions of the spectrum to be cleared to help meet deficit-reduction goals passed in H.Con.Res. 95. Consequently, some legislation deemed necessary to assure a timely transition to digital television was included in the FY2006 budget reconciliation process, (P.L. 109-171). It includes key provisions essential to the release of spectrum and provides over $7 billion toward deficit reduction.
The transition to digital television has two major policy components. One set of policy
decisions is concerned with how best to move television broadcasters and their viewers to digital
technology. Other key policy issues deal with spectrum management and allocation. Briefly
discussed below are key points about the DTV transition and its inclusion in the budget
reconciliation process. This report will not be updated.