Legislator works to get the DTV word out


Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the key Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, has a piece which he’s trying to get before as many consumer eyes as possible. If your own congressperson has not done a similar piece, this is suitable for linking to on your own local website.

Big Change in TV Coming Soon

By Congressman Lee Terry

As many others have said, television as we know it is about to change.  On February 17, 2009, television stations will stop broadcasting in analog and switch to digital.  This change means if you do not have cable or satellite and are watching television on an analog set with rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna you must take action to continue watching television as you do today.  Why the change? Converting to DTV will free up parts of the broadcast spectrum. Those portions can then be used for emergency services such as police and fire departments. Digital broadcasting will offer more programming choices and promises better picture and sound quality.

However, many viewers are still unprepared for the change and are at risk of losing TV reception including access to important news, weather, and emergency information. With the switch less than two months away in the heart of winter, it is critical you act now. If you are prepared, check to see if your family and neighbors are prepared, particularly vulnerable populations such as senior citizens and the disabled.

To make sure you don’t lose your television signal with the transition you have three options; you can buy a converter box that will plug into your analog TV, you can buy a digital TV, or you can connect your analog TV to cable, satellite or other pay service.

If you chose to buy a converter box, the government is providing coupons to help in the purchase of a box.  All U.S. Households may receive up to two $40 coupons to be used towards the purchase of up to two digital-to-analog converter boxes.  If you have not applied for a coupon, you should do so immediately, given the four to six week turn-around time for requesting and receiving the coupons. Due to increasing demand for coupons, if you do not order it by the end of December, you may not receive it prior to February 17, 2009.  To apply for a coupon call 1-888-DTV-2009.  The coupons expire 90 days from the day they were issued, so you need to use it as soon as you receive it.

If you have applied for a coupon in the past but were denied because you live in a rural community utilizing a P.O. Box, or you are a resident of a licensed nursing home, intermediate care facility, or an assisted living facility, you should reapply as the federal government now has a program in place to assist individuals living in these communities.

It is also important to note you will still need an antenna to continue watching free, over-the-air television after the transition to DTV.  In many cases, as was discovered in a recent test in North Carolina, you may need to purchase a more powerful antenna to receive a crisp signal. The antenna issue is a common problem, and prior to the DTV transition date, I encourage you to set up your converter box or digital TV to test the reception in your area.

Area broadcasters conducted a test of the new DTV system in early December.  Area television stations and 2-1-1 took a combined 600+ calls from viewers on the transition.  Many individuals still have questions or are not prepared for the nationwide change that is quickly approaching.  Local television stations will conduct another test on Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 6:58pm.  A message will appear on your television screen that will indicate if your television is ready for the switch or not.  Other stations throughout Nebraska will have similar test dates. If your television is not ready, you will need to make one of the changes mentioned earlier, otherwise you will not be able to watch television as you do today.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified the transition to digital television as one of the 13 most urgent issues needing the immediate attention of the 111th Congress and President-elect Obama during the presidential transition. I applaud the members of the Nebraska DTV Transition coalition, which consists of collaborative local public and private partners, who have come together voluntarily over the past year to work on various DTV issues that impact our local community.  The hard work to make this transition as smooth as possible will continue to require a “Village” effort and I assure you that we are all fully committed to that effort.