why can't WSMH and WNEM deal with the local cable companies to pass their network's HD signals through the cable system and save the cost of transmitting over the air until it was financially feasible for them?
Actually, from what little I understand, WSMH (FOX 66) is a Sinclair owned station and Sinclair's whole "strategy" is to provide signal over the air. I got the feeling that they are trying to tweak the current business model and maybe tap into a more lucrative fee program for them from the cable companies using this shift in technology as the catalyst.
Also, I don't know much about their FCC licensing situation, but you can't get any closer to Canada than the Detroit area stations (at least in the lower peninsula) and they all punch out OTA DTV signals just fine. WJRT (ABC 12) transmits HD, I think they have a tower in Chesaning and they don't seem to have a problem with the FCC holding them back, so I'm not really understanding WSMH's problem, but I'm generalizing (I don't know what specifics are involved and they don't seem to be offering any more info other than "blame the FCC, not us.")
As far as WNEM (CBS 5) is concerned, classic problem; it costs a lot of money to implement! They'll need to take that plunge sometime, I guess it's just going to be later rather than sooner. They have their digital signal up, but nothing doing with HD (and the sad part for us is that so many people on these boards seem to complement CBS for their HD quality)!