I based what I wrote (and write) on numerous (high level) industry sources. Engineers are not company spokespersons and may not be in a position to fully discuss an issue.
There are really three things going on at once. 1) All the NYC stations that are not operating at full (analog) power. Restoring power to full output is their top priority. 2) Digital restoration 3) Long term planning for 2 new broadcast towers.
With that said here is what is happening.
The electrical work for digital restoration at ESB is complete. Space has been made available for a digital signal combiner and new (digital) transmitters.
Negotiations are continuing between CBS and the (currently) off-the-air digital stations. These negotiations are to be concluded soon.
I am happy to report that WNBC-DT has changed their position. A NBC network executive told me at the NAB convention that they are now in discussions with CBS for inclusion in the digital combiner project
Assuming the negotiations are successful, the combiner will then be ordered along with new digital transmitters. Until the stations that are going "on board" are "on board" the combiner can not be ordered since the combiner manufacturer needs to know the final requirements.
The combiner and transmitters could be built quickly and arrive by August (according to a supplier) . If no other problems arise we can hope for restoration of terrestrial digital transmissions in September, just in time for the 2002-2003 season (or shortly thereafter).
Considering the NY market is the biggest in the nation, FCC Chairman Powell's new initiative for the DTV transition and the networks' announcements of more HDTV prime time programming in the fall, I am still optimistic that the NYC stations can and will work together to bring the combiner project to a successful conclusion .
If they do not, there is no alternative on the table other than waiting years for a new tower locations to be approved, constructed and put into operation.
I will stay on top of the situation and report again once all the negotiations are completed .