Friday, October 24, 2008

Helping America flip the digital TV switch



In less than four months, U.S. television broadcasting will switch from analog to digital, a more efficient and higher quality transmission system. At midnight on February 17, 2009, all full power television stations will transition to digital-only broadcasting.

This week, our friends at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) launched a contest on YouTube to help consumers get ready. CEA is inviting YouTube users to create videos that will educate and inform others on how to prepare for the transition. Contest details can be found at http://www.youtube.com/dtvtransition.

Why is the country making this change? More than just better television, digital broadcasting will free up airwaves for emergency responder use and unleash a more open era of mobile communications.

By switching to a more efficient broadcasting system, valuable spectrum can now be used for new wireless services and enhanced public safety communications. The FCC already auctioned some of this spectrum. Google sought to ensure that, regardless of who won the auction, consumers would be able to connect any wireless device and download any application and content of their choosing. The winner of a key block of the spectrum, Verizon Wireless, will now be required to give consumers these historic new rights. The digital TV transition also promises to expand the amount of vacant TV "white spaces" spectrum that we hope is used for unlicensed advanced Wi-Fi-like services.

Before these benefits can be realized, we all have a responsibility to make sure our friends, families and fellow citizens aren't left in the dark when the digital TV transition happens on February 17, 2009.

What can you do? Help identify friends and family members who watch over-the-air television through analog TVs that are not connected to cable or satellite service. Encourage them to get a digital television or a TV converter box to keep their existing analog TVs working. Congress has created a converter box coupon program to provide coupons worth $40 to help households get the converter box equipment they need - see www.dtv2009.gov to apply for coupons. And, starting this week, you can also help spread the word by entering CEA's Convert Now contest on YouTube to win a new home entertainment center.

The popular country band Whiskey Falls has created a video to kick off the contest. Check it out -- and be sure to get your videos in before November 23:

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