DTV Primer

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Timeline

Updated July 2, 2006

1996 -- Congress passed Telecommunications Act of 1996 which established December 31, 2006, as the end of the transition to a new ATSC digital television standard. On that date authority to broadcast via the old NTSC analog standard would end.

1997 -- Congress adopted caveats to that hard date to ensure that no more than 15 percent of American TV households would be cut off from TV before analog transmissions ended in any market.

May 1, 1999 -- Top four networks in the top ten markets required to have their digital channels up and running (although not at full power and not full time).

November 1, 1999 -- Top four networks in markets 11-30 required to have constructed their digital stations.

May 1, 2002 -- Remaining commercial broadcast stations required to be transmitting a digital signal.

April 1, 2003 -- Broadcast stations required to transmit digitally 50 percent of the time that they broadcast analog programming.

May 1, 2003 -- All broadcast stations' digital channels required to be up and running (these requirements turned out to be a goal, not universally met).

April 1, 2004 -- Broadcast stations required to transmit digitally 75 percent of the time that they broadcast analog programming.
-- Cable operators must supply upon request to their customers, HD STBs with functional Firewire 1394 connectors.

July 1, 2004 -- 50 percent of models of DTV receivers in sets 36" and larger that are labeled "Digital Cable Ready" must have DVI or HDMI interfaces using HDCP (high-bandwidth digital content protection) technology.
-- 50 percent of new televisions 36" and larger are required to have integrated over-the-air digital tuners

September 7, 2004 -- FCC releases Report and Order, Second Periodic Review of Rules and Policies Affecting the Conversion to Digital Television (Mostly technical rules, but among other things, it repealed a requirement for simulcasting and rejected proposals for consumer labeling of analog-only sets).

December 31, 2004 -- Commercial broadcast stations required to increase signal strength to meet "principle community coverage."

February 2005 -- First round channel elections for broadcast stations with "in-core" channels (i.e. 2-51). Channels 52-69 will be surrendered at the end of the transition and those frequencies (698-806 MHz) will be auctioned off by the government or transferred for use by public safety agencies.

April 1, 2005 -- Broadcast stations required to transmit digitally 100 percent of the time that they broadcast analog programming.

June 2005 -- FCC Media Bureau issues DTV channel election conflict letters

July 1, 2005 -- all HD STBs must also have DVI (digital visual interface) or HDMI (high definition multimedia interface).
-- 100 percent of models of DTV receivers in sets 36" and larger and 50 percent in sets 25" to 35" that are labeled "Digital Cable Ready" must have DVI or HDMI interfaces using HDCP (high-bandwidth digital content protection) technology; any set labeled "Digital Cable Ready" must also include an integrated over-the-air digital tuner.
-- 100 percent of new televisions 36" and larger are required to have integrated digital tuners; 50 percent of new televisions 25" to 35" are required to have integrated over-the-air digital tuners.
-- Use-it-or-lose-it deadline for the top four networks' stations in the 100 largest TV markets to go to full digital signal coverage (replication and maximization protection deadline).

August 2005 -- Broadcast stations file with FCC first round channel election interference conflict forms.

September 2005 -- Second round of channel elections for broadcast stations.

October 2005 -- FCC completes second round channel election interference conflict analysis; Media Bureau issues conflict letters.

November 1, 2005 -- The Senate and the House of Representatives each pass their own version of a new digital TV transition bill. The House version would end the transition on December 31, 2008, and the Senate version would set that date as April 7, 2009. Each would have a subsidy for digital-to-analog set-top-boxes.

December 2005 -- Broadcast stations submit second round conflict decision forms to FCC.

December 31, 2005 -- Non-commercial broadcast stations required to increase signal strength to meet "principle community coverage."

February 8, 2006 -- Digital TV Transition Act of 2005 signed into law, establishing February 17, 2009 as the last day for NTSC/analog TV broadcasts.

February 2006 -- Third round channel elections for stations without confirmed channels.

March 1, 2006 -- All new televisions 25" to 35" are required to have integrated over-the-air digital tuners.

March 2006 -- FCC to resolve third round DTV channel election interference conflicts

July 1, 2006 -- 100 percent of models of DTV receivers in sets 25" to 35" that are labeled "Digital Cable Ready" must have DVI or HDMI interfaces using HDCP (high-bandwidth digital content protection) technology.
-- Use-it-or-lose-it deadline for all smaller commercial stations plus non-commercial stations to go to full digital signal coverage (replication and maximization protection deadline, with caveats depending on channel assignment).

August 2006 -- FCC completes channel elections, issues new DTV Table of Allotments. That is, all TV broadcast stations have their final digital channel numbers.

December 31, 2006 -- Nominal (set in 1996) statutory cut-off date for analog (NTSC) broadcasts; Congress has delayed this date.

March 1, 2007 -- Deadline for all television sets (13" and larger) to include integrated ATSC (digital) tuners.

January 1, 2008 -- First day that consumers may request $40 government subsidy coupons for a digital-to-analog converter box.

February 17, 2009 -- Hard cut-off date for analog TV broadcasts set by the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005.

March 31, 2009 -- Last day for consumers to request $40 government subsidy coupons for a digital-to-analog converter box.

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