DTV switch cleared spectrum for broadband and public safety
The DTV Transition and Public Safety Act set a firm deadline for the end of analog TV broadcasting. Congress passed the DTV Transition Act as Title III of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 109-171, 120 Stat. 21 (2006). The DTV Transition Act also required each full-power broadcast station upon completion of the transition to return the second channel of spectrum the FCC had granted it to simulcast programming in both analog and digital format as viewers migrated from analog to digital television sets.
The Act required the FCC to prospectively auction some of the spectrum the broadcasters would return, which wireless providers would deploy for next-generation mobile broadband services. That auction netted the federal treasury $19 billion.
The Act prospectively allocated $1.5 billion of the auction proceeds to provide up to two $50 coupons for each interested U.S. household to buy digital-to-analog converter boxes. The boxes converted digital signals back to analog to enable analog TVs still in the home to continue displaying programming. The coupon program would eventually come in at the original budget, although the newly installed Obama Administration prompted the next Congress to delay the DTV transition date and allocate additional funding for the coupon program, out of unfounded concern that coupons would run out before all interested households could acquire and use them.
The Act allocated another portion of the cleared spectrum for interoperable public safety use, acting on findings by the 9/11 Commission that First Responders had difficulty communicating when responding to the terrorist attacks.