ARC Urges TV Viewers in Appalachia to Gear Up for 2009 Conversion to All-Digital Television Broadcasting
WASHINGTON, January 30, 2008—The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) joined the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in urging television viewers throughout the Appalachian Region to prepare for the upcoming national conversion to all-digital television broadcasting. After February 17, 2009, full-power television stations will cease broadcasting in analog format and will broadcast in digital format only.
In 1996, the U.S. Congress authorized the distribution of an additional broadcast channel to each broadcast television station to start a digital channel while simultaneously continuing its analog channel. Later, Congress mandated that February 17, 2009, would be the last day for full-power television stations to broadcast in analog format. The switch from analog to digital broadcast television is referred to as the "digital TV" (DTV) transition. Broadcast stations in all U.S. markets are currently broadcasting in both analog and digital formats.
"February 2009 will be here sooner than we think," said ARC Federal Co-Chair Anne B. Pope. "Now is the time for us all to get up to speed on DTV: what is it; what does it mean to me; what do I need to do? We at the Appalachian Regional Commission encourage everyone to educate themselves on this important issue."
Digital broadcasting allows stations to offer improved picture and sound quality. Digital is also much more efficient than analog: Rather than being limited to providing one analog program, a broadcaster is able to offer a super-sharp "high definition" digital program or multiple "standard definition" digital programs simultaneously through a process called multicasting. Multicasting allows broadcast stations to offer several channels of digital programming at the same time, using the same amount of spectrum required for one analog program. For example, while a station broadcasting in analog on channel 7 is only able to offer viewers one program, a station broadcasting in digital on channel 7 can offer viewers one digital program on channel 7-1, a second digital program on channel 7-2, a third digital program on channel 7-3, and so on. This means more programming choices for viewers. Furthermore, DTV can provide interactive video and data services that are not possible with analog technology.
An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for public safety communications (such as for police, fire departments, and rescue squads). Additionally, some of the spectrum will be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).
For viewers with one or more television sets that receive free over-the-air programming using a roof-top antenna or "rabbit ears," the type of television they own is very important. A digital television (one with an internal digital tuner) will allow viewers to continue to watch free over-the-air programming after February 17, 2009. However, viewers with analog televisions will need a digital-to-analog converter box to continue to watch broadcast television on that set. The converter box will also enable viewers to see any additional multicast programming that their local stations are offering.
To help consumers with the DTV transition, the U.S. government established the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program. The NTIA, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, administers this program. Every U.S. household is eligible to receive up to two coupons, worth $40 each, toward the purchase of eligible digital-to-analog converter boxes. Consumers will be able to request the coupons beginning in January 2008. The coupons may only be used for eligible converter boxes sold at participating consumer electronics retailers, and the coupons must be used at the time of purchase. Manufacturers estimate that digital-to-analog converter boxes will sell for $50 to $70 each. This is a one-time cost. More information on the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program is available at NTIA's Web site at www.dtv2009.gov or by calling 1-888-388-2009 (voice) or 1-877-530-2634 (TTY).
Cable and satellite television subscribers with analog televisions connected to cable or satellite service should not be affected by the transition but should contact their service provider to verify this.
Comprehensive information about the digital transition and what it means for consumers is available at www.dtv.gov. Consumers can also call 1-888-CALL-FCC.