Good news for anyone who has yet to upgrade to a TV or device with ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV. Last week the FCC announced they will be pushing back their deadline that would have let TV stations shut down their 1.0 signals to June 2027. The FCC did add, though, that they will reconsider this transition in 2026 to see if that date needs to change again.
For cord cutters, this means your current TV will still get its free over-the-air TV. The FCC also said TV stations must offer the same content on both the 1.0 and 3.0 ATSC standers at least for their most popular programs.
Here is what the FCC said in a statement released last week.
As a result of the current status of the transition reflected in the record, we conclude that the sunset of the substantially similar rule is unnecessary at this time. We note, however, that the pace of the transition has necessarily been impacted by the recent pandemic. As the transition continues and the consumer equipment market evolves, the impact of eliminating or modifying the substantially similar requirement may change. We therefore find that it would be appropriate to revisit this issue in the future once the transition has had more time to advance. Moreover, we anticipate that the Commission’s recently announced “Future of TV” public-private initiative, which will be led by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), will provide additional information on the pace and nature of the transition.197 These insights, including any proposals discussed by partnership stakeholders in this initiative, can help inform any potential changes to the substantially similar requirement. Accordingly, we adopt a new sunset date of July 17, 2027. Given the ongoing transition, we believe at this time that this is an appropriate sunset period.198 This date will allow for the opportunity of material changes to the transition such that a subsequent review is warranted. Consistent with the previous sunset, the Commission will initiate a review approximately one year before the requirement is set to expire to seek comment on whether it should be extended based on marketplace conditions at that time. This balanced approach will provide 1.0 viewers with needed certainty while giving broadcasters an additional opportunity to demonstrate that the substantially similar requirement should be eliminated or modified.
This ruling comes as the FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel recently opened up about the plans to shut down 1.0 at some point in the future.
The Federal Communications Commission has already made known its plans to end 1.0 since last April, though a timeline for doing so has yet to be outlined. FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said, “I think that a lot of people in this room believe that ATSC 1.0 needs to have a hard sunset target and that we should migrate to 3.0 at that point.”
FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington thinks that a gradual transition would be more fitting. “Having people preferentially gravitate towards the 3.0 content, and having new universal penetration of 3.0 and new devices are the goals that would make it easy to get a terminal date for 1.0, and it seems like it’s easier to accomplish by a pull than by a push.”
Instead of suddenly eliminating 1.0, Simington feels a natural shift will take place with consumers who will eventually embrace 3.0 and make 1.0 obsolete in the process. “Turning off 1.0 becomes totally non-controversial because then everyone will have forgotten it was there.”
For now, it seems the FCC is hoping that as people upgrade their TVs they will get the new 3.0 standard removing the need for a hard transition date like we saw with Analog TV to Digital OTA TV.