In a little over a year, television broadcasters will stop broadcasting their signal in analog format and will broadcast only in digital format. This transition from analog to digital, known as the Digital TV (DTV) transition, will take place on February 17, 2009 and will bring new opportunities and innovative services to all consumers. The potential for more channels, better picture clarity, and greater consumer interaction are what make digital television such an exciting technology.
Digital television represents the most significant development in television technology since the advent of color television. DTV can provide movie-quality pictures and sound far superior to traditional analog television. DTV offers sharper and wider pictures. Even consumers with analog televisions connected to a converter box or cable or satellite service will receive better service than they did before the transition.
In order to receive and view digital television service, consumers must have a digital television set equipped with a digital tuner capable of receiving the digital signal that is provided either over-the-air or via cable or satellite television systems. Analog-only televisions will no longer be able to receive the new broadcast signals. Those televisions must be connected to cable or satellite systems or be equipped with a digital-to-analog converter box. The cost of these boxes is expected to be $50 to $70. Converter boxes will not only enable all analog televisions to function, they should also provide better reception and additional features such as closed captioning and parental controls.
While I believe that the digital transition must occur, I also believe that Congress should take steps to help ease the burden on those American households that do not have digital television sets when the transition is complete. For that reason, Congress established a digital-to-analog converter box program that will partially subsidize consumer purchases of converter boxes. Specifically, the Congress passed legislation in 2005 which directs the Department of Commerce to provide up to two forty-dollar coupons to households who need to purchase the digital-to-analog converter box.
An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable analog spectrum for public safety communications, such as police, fire departments and rescue squads. Additionally, some of the analog spectrum will be auctioned off for more exciting uses like wireless high speed Internet services, which will provide more options for consumers in rural areas. In addition, a portion of the revenue raised in the spectrum auction will be returned to the U.S. Treasury, thereby contributing to federal deficit reduction.
The digital television transition is exciting news for consumers. As we approach the DTV transition deadline, please don’t hesitate to contact my office if you need more information or visit the Federal Communications Commission.
Cross-posted at SixtyFour81.com