United States Senate Special Committee on Aging

Digital Television Transition

Digital Television Transition - What You Should Know

General Background

The Digital Television (DTV) transition is the switch from traditional analog TV to digital TV. This transition represents the most significant advancement in television technology since color TV was introduced. DTV will allow broadcasters to deliver movie quality picture and sound. It also provides more programming options for viewers because broadcasters will be able to "multicast" or air up to six different channels over one signal, such as an 'all weather' or 'all traffic' channel.

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Why Are We Transitioning Now?

The transition will make additional spectrum available for commercial use and public safety purposes. Freeing up the spectrum should prevent the communication problems experienced by first responders during 9/11.

Areas of Concern

In general, seniors will constitute the greatest portion of those affected by the digital transition - particularly low income, fixed income, disabled, homebound, minority and/or rural seniors. Additionally, households left behind will lose access to free TV. This is a public safety issue, as access to essential information in the event of an emergency will be eliminated and individuals will be unable to receive national and local emergency alerts aired over television.

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How Do I Navigate the Transition?

Prior to the February 2009 transition date, consumers who rely on free over-the-air analog TV will have three options to ensure continuous access to TV service :

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How Does the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program Work?

The US Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is charged with implementing the program, which was created to help subsidize the cost of a set-top converter box. By January 1, 2008 U.S. households may request up to two $40 coupons from NTIA to be applied toward the purchase of a coupon-eligible converter box.

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What is the Special Committee on Aging Doing?

Senator Kohl has reached out to the following entities:

  • The Federal Communications Commission & the Department of Commerce, which will oversee the entire DTV transition and the coupon program. Senator Kohl asked about their ability and plan to jointly implement a consumer education program for older individuals. (View a copy of the letter. View their respective responses.)

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